The 1980s called; they want their rebellious teenager back!

 Why going rogue didn’t work for me, but Jesus did

I want you to hit rewind on your VHS tape that has already been taped over twice and reminisce about the 1980s with me.  Feel free to pour yourself a huge bowl of Count Chocula cereal using only whole milk, plop down in your grandmother’s plaid Lazy boy chair in her unfinished basement, and take a listen.  

That awesome decade brought us the following: the Berlin Wall fell (1989), the Chernobyl nuclear power plant blew up (1986), serial killers made a more obvious debut along with scary movies such as Nightmare on Elm Street (1984), Ronald Reagan ruled and reigned (1981-1989), and Journey released their timeless hit song “Don’t Stop Believin” (1981).

It was also the decade where millions of kids walked or rode their bikes home from school and watched Scooby Doo on their wood-paneled TV sets that rested comfortably on tufted green carpets.  After Shaggy pulled the ghost costume off the bad guy and the show ended, these resilient kiddos jumped up off their gold-checkered couch and actually turned the TV channel knob over to Growing Pains starring Kirk Cameron.  Kirk’s image was scotch-taped to their bedroom walls thanks to Tiger Beat magazine.

On lazy afternoons, these 80s kids would look forward to their manual telephone ringing on the kitchen wall and picking up the receiver, not even knowing who was on the other side. They were delighted when it was their best friend calling. They would proceed to stretch the telephone cord all the way down the slightly musty cellar steps and have a hushed conversation with their bestie, plotting and scheming about when they could get together and whose house they would spend the night at. They were secretly planning the fun and slightly bad things they were going to do later behind their parent’s backs.  

Suddenly, a very faint “click” was heard on the phone line. Little brother was quietly listening in on the call from the cluttered spare bedroom! After discovering the little brat and yelling at him from the cellar, the plotting and scheming would continue. 

Or maybe that was just me. 

These phone calls were just the start of my newly formed covert rebellious streak.  

My best friend Jennifer and me at 14 years old. We would plot and scheme on the phone, and then buy matching sweaters. We also lit our eyeliner with matches before we applied it directly onto our lower eye-lids for a more dramatic effect. 😁

But I get ahead of myself.  

Before I became a rogue teenager, I was a fairly innocent young child from the 1970s, being raised in a completely non-religious household.  And my first contact with God and religion did not occur in its purist form.

Me and my sister Jessie!
Jessie and me today…with a fun photo filter!

My first brush with organized religion occurred after I was newly formed in my mother’s womb.  My mother Linda became unexpectedly pregnant with me at 17 years old and was advised by Planned Parenthood staff to abort me.  She then, along with my father, confessed the pregnancy to both sets of parents.  My mother’s parents immediately sought the advice of their Presbyterian minister who, after listening to their imminent problem, blandly stated the following:

“Linda is very young and very smart.  She should go to college. She should get an abortion.”

My mom, dad, and four grandparents rejected this advice and I was born later that year, much to the dismay of my mother’s Presbyterian minister who received a pretty direct phone call from me 35 years later.  Two years after I made my debut, my younger sister Jessica (Jessie) was born.  My parents were very young and not ready for marriage, and sadly their marriage ended after four years. This started a chain reaction of various hardships that stayed with me throughout my childhood and teen years.  These hardships included, but were not limited to, not having a close relationship with my father, my mom being materially poor, being raised in a single parent household, constant feelings of rejection and insecurity, and experiencing two divorces. 

There were many good things about my childhood as well, and I am eternally grateful for all of the ways we were blessed and provided for. I want to give a special shout out to my mom, who gave my sister and me a very stable childhood filled with love and blessings.  My four grandparents also stepped up to the plate and supported us financially and emotionally in many ways.  My dad also came around later, I had a good relationship with both my step-dad Bob and step-mom Mel, and I truly loved my three half-siblings which came along as a result of a my extended family.  Finally, my mom’s best friend Becky had two kids and I was best friends with her daughter Hillary.  Hill and I grew up together from age zero to 12, and we enjoyed many fun adventures together throughout those formative years. 

This is a quintessential 1970s photo.

Yet it was right in the middle of these early years mixed with good and bad that God decided to enter my world. 

God first showed me how much he loved me through the friendship and example of a Catholic nun.  Although my mom considered herself an atheist and pitied people who had to lean on any religion, she enrolled my sister and me into a small Catholic school (Cathedral School) because it was close to her job site in downtown Syracuse, New York. During my first grade year, I made a connection with my teacher, a nun named Sister Patrick Joseph. We had a special bond and she loved me very much (and I loved her).  Sister Patrick Joseph instilled in me that God loved me very much, He created me to be a beautiful little girl, and that I was very special to Him and very deeply loved. The highlight of attending Cathedral, besides my friendship with my special teacher, was that I won a school-wide writing contest in the first grade. The title of my book was “God and Pennytress the Easter Bunny.”  It was a huge honor as this writing contest included the entire school consisting of kindergarten through 5th grade students. 

My second brush with religion occurred via an old church bus trolling through our poor, sketchy neighborhood in the south-side of Syracuse.  This church bus drove kids up the road about three miles to a small town called Nedrow, where the good news of Jesus Christ was presented in a Vacation Bible School format.  One day during the church class, I remember a woman teacher talking to me about Jesus Christ, and how He was God’s one and only Son.  She told all of us that God loved us and wanted to have a relationship of love with us.  The seeds about Jesus had already been planted by Sister Patrick Joseph, so I remember bowing my head and praying, asking Jesus to come into my heart and my life, to forgive me and to be my Savior and my Lord.

Our house on Matson Ave. (above), and the church where I came into the family of God (below).

It was around this time that God also started to quietly work in the life of my mom.  At the time, she was an atheist/liberal/feminist who used to make fun of Ronald Reagan.  Her good friend Bonnie would send her letters and share God’s love with her, but she had no interest in the “religious parts” of the letters and would gloss right over them. 

One day as she was reading a book, she had a profoundly transformative experience. From my mom:  “I was looking into New Age religions when I read Edgar Cayce, a clairvoyant ‘prophet’ who was popular with New Age seekers.  In one of his books, he was discussing how Jesus’ birth, ministry, and death fulfilled many Old Testament prophecies, written hundreds of years before He was born.  I suddenly realized there must be a God for that to have happened, and my mind was completely transformed.  This was confirmed by the fact that almost immediately, I called my friend Bonnie to tell her what had happened, and she followed up by sending me Christian reading materials to study.”

That experience eventually led her to a belief in a loving God and His Son, Jesus Christ. She slowly and steadily grew as a new Christian, and our little family of three started attending church. This was also during the era of “Jesus Music,” and I have many fun memories of riding around in our car, listening to Keith Green music. Later, she met and then married a wonderful man named Bob, who became my new step-dad.  

Although Bob was and is still is a great guy, I had a real problem with authority figures back in the day and wanted to rebel against bosses and rules, therefore our relationship was somewhat rocky for many years.  I also developed a tough, rebellious exterior due to hiding all of my insecurities and fears of rejection.  And although I was slowly growing in my new faith in God, I was also being pulled away by the world and the pressure to appear cool and be accepted by my peers. 

This brings me back to the beginning of this post, where I began my rogue streak. For the next few years, I continued to rebel against my parent’s rules and my new Christian faith.  Sometimes it was as mild as riding my bike all over Onondaga valley with my best friend Jennifer and not telling anyone where we were going or what we were doing.  I look back over those years and I am grateful for God’s protection, as Jennifer and I were constantly alone and doing things away from our parents at 14 years of age. 

Most times, the rebellion was hidden and fairly mild. Other times, the rebellion was more pronounced.  For example, a few of my Christian high school friends and I would change our New York State driver’s licenses and go up to the Syracuse University (SU) bar scene (we would call it going to “the hill” for short) and fake-ID our way into various SU bars.  Even though we were a mere 17 or 18 years old at the time, we would dance, drink, and meet up with and sometimes make out with guys we literally just met (speaking for myself here, I am not sure what the other three did).  

However, one time I followed a young SU student named Andrew back to his Greek frat house.  This was really bad because I actually left my group of three friends and went off on my own with a man I had just met. Nothing bad or scary happened that evening but looking back, this was very foolish behavior.

I also told little white lies to my parents about my whereabouts and would attend underage drinking parties (who didn’t back then?) and concerts without their knowledge or consent. I also worked at a Christian summer camp and would sneak cigarettes, sneak out of my cabin at night and meet up with other kids sneaking out, and sneak wine coolers off campus in the middle of the woods.  

There was a lot of sneaking around back in those days.  But it was around this time that I realized that going rogue wasn’t really working for me; here are the three reasons why.

First, going rogue did not leave me happy, peaceful, or set free

This realization ironically began at a well-known bar at SU.  

I remember one night my friends and I were drinking and dancing at a bar called “Maggie’s.”  All the young college kids were very drunk, sloppy, sweaty, slimy, and dancing in a very provocative, sexual manner.  I looked at my friend Marla, and said the following: “this whole bar scene is kinda gross.  And everything about this place starts with an “S.”  The girls are dressed slutty (I probably was too), the men are sleazy and sexual, the place is sloshy and sloppy and smoky, everyone is sweaty and shiny and dancing in a sexual manner, and it stinks in here!” 

She laughed at me and we continued to dance to “You Shook Me All Night Long” by AC/DC. 

I was also not deeply set free inside, mainly because I was not happy deep inside. I think the greatest lie of rebellion is that it will lead to a great sense of personal freedom and happiness.  I found the opposite to be true, because I became a slave to my own desires and agendas.  I become aggravated if anything tried to mess with my freedom.  For me, it was more about being extremely self-centered and wanting to do whatever I wanted to do, whenever I wanted to do it.  

I have learned since that time that Christianity is all about loving God first, and loving and serving others after that.  If you do those two things well, God will bless you and give you the internal freedom and peace you are truly longing for.  

In addition, I felt like there was this invisible force that was keeping me from fully rebelling.  I went right up to the line of right and wrong and peered over the edge, but something was holding onto my t-shirt, not letting me slip over the edge.  

Big hair, don’t care. Me and my high school besties getting ready to fake-ID our way into a bar on The Hill. And to be more precise, we just changed the date on our driver’s licenses with a very sharp pencil. 😂
I’m still friends with all of my high school buds, including Marla, above!

Second, I realized that as I aligned with rebellion, I was aligning myself with Satan and his demons and away from God and his angels

This is the part of this article/post that will make you want to check out mentally because it sounds weird, but hang with me for a minute and you will see what I am referring to.  

At around 16 years of age, my best friend Jennifer’s older brother Jeff handed me a book and said: “Read this book; it will change your life and you won’t be the same.”  As I was an active member of the “yeah whatever” club, I promptly dismissed him until I opened up the book and read the first ten pages.  I was hooked. He was correct: the book completely changed my life, and stopped me in my tracks.

The book was called “He Came To Set the Captives Free” by Rebecca Brown. It is the true story about a young doctor named Rebecca Brown who ministered to over 1000 men and women who were active members of their local Satanic group, but wanted out.  The only problem with Satanism is that it works much like Hotel California, in that you can definitely check out anytime you’d like, but you can never leave.  However, Rebecca was the most bad-ass Christian I had ever heard of  or read about (I thought most Christians were weak and boring) and through the power and authority of Jesus Christ, she successfully led these men and women out of Satanism and into a very real relationship with Jesus Christ.  She also became friends with one of the top witches in the United States and got her out too (an impossible task).  

The stories she told blew my mind and made me realize that Satan and his demons hated me and wanted to destroy me.  They were thrilled when I rebelled against God and my parents. They wanted me to do bad and risky things late at night with no protection.  They wanted me to hate God and doubt his love and goodness.  

After reading about the invisible world of angels and demons and how real they actually were, I realized that I wanted to align my life more on the side of God and the Angels for the rest of my life. 

Third, Jesus worked for me instead

The final and most important reason that going rouge didn’t work for me is that Jesus worked for me instead.  I began to grow as a Christian during the summers of my teenage years working at Christian summer camps.  There were many chapel services and friendships that God used to draw me to Himself.  My high school growth spurt led to my college growth spurt, and here I am today. 

The gospel means “good news.” God loves you and me so much that He sent His son to die on the cross for our sins, so that we can have a relationship of love with him, and to experience eternal life. I choose to be a Christian because God has drawn me to Himself with His love, and He has been faithful to me over the years.  Here are just a few ways God has been faithful to me:

  • During my youth, God provided many blessings and also some hardships, in order to shape my character and humble me.
  • When I was a young adult, God showed me that my identity, the very core of who I am and how I felt about myself, was incorrectly placed.  He revealed to me that I am unconditionally loved and accepted, and that He is in control of all aspects of my life.  And then He healed me of my deep-seated fears of rejection. 
  • God also provided a wonderful and fulfilling career on Capitol Hill, doing meaningful work, as well as a wonderful husband Erik, whom I married at 27 years of age.  He blessed Erik and me with three wonderful (yet challenging, I must be honest) kids, through the miracle of adoption.  
  • But probably the most important reason I continue to stick with God is because I am free, peaceful, and happy deep inside.  I enjoy a deep sense of security and peace that the world or any other human relationship cannot provide.  I have peace knowing that God is in control of every aspect of my life, that He is good, and that I can trust Him implicitly. 
  • There are many other benefits to having a relationship with God.  Please see the highlights located in the Bible verse I will leave below. 

So as I look back over the 1980s, I have many fond memories of good moments with my family and especially my mom and sister Jessie, dancing all crazy with my high school besties, riding my bike all over the valley with Jennifer, going on little adventures with Hillary, Grandma Inge buying me Nancy Drew books and an Orange Julius at the mall, and consuming a lot of unhealthy sugary cereals while watching the launch of MTV on my vintage couch with a large green ashtray beside it.  😁👍

But the best thing I received from that awesome decade was that it solidified my relationship with God and Jesus Christ.  Jesus loves me, forgives me, heals me, redeems me, and satisfies me with good things so that my youth is eternally renewed. 

So please don’t stop believin’ in a loving God who will set you free big time and give you eternal life!  

Thank you for reading my Never Ending Story all the way to the end.  

Try not to accidentally tape over it.

Later, dude!

“So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.” John 8:36

Praise the Lord, my soul, and forget not all his benefits – 

Who forgives all your sins

And heals all your diseases

Who redeems your life from the pit

And crowns you with (His) love and compassion

Who satisfies your desires with good things so that 

Your youth is renewed like the eagle’s…..

Psalm 103

Photo credit from my friend Juli, who was also my friend in the 80s. 😁

Sexual Abuse, Forgiveness, and Janie’s Got a Gun – my story of healing and freedom after sexual abuse

This is me at about the age when I was sexually abused by two men.

“In speaking the words, you release the shame.”  — Oprah Winfrey
“She said ’cause nobody believes me, the man was such a sleaze, he ain’t never gonna be the same.” — Aerosmith 

You know how some songs can stir up strong emotions deep inside of you?  Maybe it’s a sad song that reminds you of a person you once loved very deeply.  Maybe it’s an upbeat song that makes you feel happy and optimistic.  

Or, maybe it’s a song that makes you think about getting revenge on someone who did something very bad to you.

There was a time not so very long ago when two songs brought up strong feelings of anger and vengeance inside of me.  Those two songs were: “In The Air Tonight” by Phil Collins and “Janie’s Got a Gun” by Aerosmith.  

Why the strong reaction? 

Because I was remembering the way two men whom I trusted had sexually molested me when I was just a little girl.  I was angry at them and wanted to take revenge, even though I am a Christian and I know that the manner and timing for vengeance belongs to God, and not to me.

Two quick qualifiers to start.

First, I thought “In The Air Tonight” was about a man who saw someone being raped (allegedly Phil Collins’ wife) and when the bad guy was drowning, Phil Collins “would not lend a hand.”  This is an urban legend and the song has nothing to do with sexual abuse (it’s about Phil Collins’ divorce).  So I guess I was singing to that song for nothing. 🙂 But I felt a strong connection to “Janie’s Got a Gun” and would frequently jog to it, all the while thinking about my dislike for one particular person. This man was a man whom I was close to and frequently interacted with growing up who molested me up until the age of seven years old.

Second qualifier: no, the molester was not my father nor my step-father (because immediately people think of them because statistically they do a lot of the sexual abusing).  And also, I was not raped.  

Now a confession: I was never, ever going to share this story so publicly.  But that all changed one day several years ago when I was watching an episode of the Oprah Winfrey show.  The studio room was filled with 200 men who had been sexually abused as children.  At the very outset of the show, all of the men stood standing and with a quiet dignity held up a picture of themselves as little boys, when their abuse began.  Some of the men were teary-eyed.  I, too, became teary-eyed. I sat transfixed for the next hour. Later in the episode, actor Tyler Perry, who himself had suffered abuse, stated the following: 

The only way, the only way, I was able to be free was to forgive this man.  Which was very difficult.  But it truly changed my life.

Oprah then went on to say the following about forgiveness:  
“And by forgiveness you don’t mean in any way for you to be able to say that that was ok what happened to me.   Forgiveness means I am not going to let you continue to hold the reigns over my life. Forgiveness is giving up the hope that the past could’ve been any different.  It’s accepting the past for what it was. And using this moment and this time to help yourself move forward.”

The episode resonated with me for many reasons, one of which is that I, too, forgave my abuser and I, too, experienced freedom and healing.  It was then that I thought that maybe someday, somehow, and in some way, I would share my story publicly.  The reason?  Because I want to help people who have also been abused.  And because sometimes other people’s stories can help you to process your own.  

So here you go, peeps.

(note: if you have suffered as a victim of sexual abuse and hearing other people’s stories is a trigger for you, feel free to skip ahead to where I indicate it is safe to start reading again with a ***)

My first abuser was named Keith and he was a teenage boy whom my mom hired one night to babysit my sister and me.  After he put me to bed I was unable to get to sleep so I came out of my room and told him I couldn’t fall asleep.  He said “Ok, I know how I can help you.” And then he proceeded to do something to me that is highly inappropriate and morally wrong for a teenage boy to do to a little girl.  What followed was quite traumatic and the details are not necessary. The whole time it was happening, I kept thinking to myself: “this is wrong, wrong, wrong.  Why is he doing this to me?”  

But I was a little six year old girl so I kept my mouth shut.

The next morning I told my mom, and she immediately confronted Keith and told him to stay far away from us and never to even come near the house.  I never saw Keith again after that.  

I know what you are now asking: “did your mom report him?”  The answer is no, and let me explain why.  A fun fact is that back in the 1970s and early 80s, sexual abuse of children was not common, even borderline unheard of.  My mom didn’t even have a category for it. She was crushed, but she took action and did what she had to do, and she was effective.  But back in those days, reporting was sadly rare.  There are so many sexual abuse scandals that took place in the 70s and 80s (think churches and universities) and unfortunately, many were never reported.  

While Keith was a one and done situation, my second abuser was sneaky in that I’m sure he was molesting me for a long time but I didn’t necessarily realize it. I guess you could say he was grooming me. He would do things like push me on a swing but grab me from my private area while he was pulling me up. I remember one day noticing it and thinking it was odd.  He exposed himself to me one day in the bathroom in a casual, even happy-go-lucky way.  When I sat on his lap he would put his hands in my underwear.  He would give me back rubs but would end under the front of my shirt.  He left pornography out for me to see.  I confess I saw the naked boobies of Madonna and Grace Jones in the 1985 edition of Playboy magazine.  I remember just staring and staring at these two naked ladies.  Another fun fact: abusers often leave porn out to “soften” the child to sexuality.  It’s gross.

But the one incident I remember the most vividly is being over at his house and he started the whole back rub thing and then went to the front, but this time he said “you have a nice body.”  For some reason I always remembered that pick-up line because I was grossed out.  I remember feeling very, very uncomfortable and had the feeling that he might try to take things further.  But then something very strange happened: the rotary phone rang, and he got up to answer it. He was on the phone for a long time, and while he was on the phone, I snuck off to bed. (Another fun fact and this one is actually fun: back then, everyone got up to answer their rotary phones and nobody screened their calls like they do today!) 

(***It is now safe to re-enter the story)
I always felt like God made that phone ring, because He said: “this far and no farther” to this man.  Maybe God knew the abuse would progress that night.  I have no idea.

The next day, I finally told my mom what had been going on for a very long time.  My mom wrote him a letter telling him she was onto his arse, that he had to stop or she would report him, and left the letter on his desk in his office.  He immediately stopped and never did anything else to me again.  

I recently asked my mom why she didn’t report this time, and her answer was something to do with the fact that he was a trusted man close to us, and she didn’t want to embarrass me or drag me through a very difficult court process.  I am glad my mom took immediate action both times.  She feels horrible about what happened to me, but I am so grateful she believed me and did what had to be done immediately.

I hold no anger or judgment against my mom.  The late 1970s was a completely different time period than we are living in today.  Both times my mom took action, and both times the abuse ended.  She was effective, and she protected me in the way that she could.  

So how did sexual abuse affect me?  Even though I was about seven years old when the abuse stopped, it was enough to affect me in deeply emotional and psychological ways. First, it dulled me to sexuality.  I remember making out with my female babysitter’s 15 year old brother David, when I was only ten years old. I remember he was lying on the couch and I decided to “seduce” him. I took out the couch cushions, put them on top of his torso, laid on top of the couch cushions, and then started to kiss him passionately.  I think I was headed in a sexual direction as a young girl due to my abuse.  But thankfully this incident was the only time I acted out in a sexually premature way. 

The other effects were more internal. I began to have inappropriate crushes on teachers and men who were much older than me.  I wrestled with a low-level sense of shame.

But I would say that the number one way I struggled after the abuse was a combination of fear of rejection and a very low self-esteem.  I was hyper-concerned about what people (especially men I admired) thought of me.  I was constantly trying to “win” the approval of other people.  I thought very little of myself.

But then something happened to me that changed the course of my life when I was thirteen years old. I remember it so vividly to this day.  I was just beginning to have a Christian faith and went on a retreat for teenagers one summer at Delta Lake Youth Camp in upstate, New York. The Camp Pastor was named Bill Brown and he spoke one night to all of us kids.  He was one of the more popular speakers as he was direct and blunt and highly engaging. I always listened to every word he said.  

One night, at the end of the message, he directed all the kids to bow their heads because “I feel like God wants to heal those who have been sexually abused as children.”  Immediately I knew he was talking straight to me (and I’m sure many other kids).  He went on to say “I feel that the Lord is saying that if you raise your hand, and I will pray for you, God will heal the effects of the abuse tonight.”  

I had a decision to make.  I remember being so incredibly embarrassed because we all know that teenagers look around to see who is raising their hands!  But I did it! I raised my hand to ask for prayer.  Then Pastor Brown prayed for us and we all called it a night.

And guess what?  All I can say to you, My Dear Reader, is that God healed me that night.  I still struggled with some remaining fear of rejection issues, but overall I felt free from most of the effects of the sexual abuse.  My confidence in who I was and the way God made me also began to grow.

But even though I felt free, I still harbored feelings of disgust towards the man who abused me.  I hated hugging him and would often do one of those awkward, barely-any-contact hugs with him and tried to avoid him as much as possible.  I still had feelings of anger toward him, and vengeance. It was about this time that I felt God nudging me to forgive this man for what he had done.  I thought I had and maybe I had, but I decided to re-forgive him every time those feelings of vengeance came to me.  

Over time, I began to feel better and more set free about the abuse.  It didn’t have as much of a grip on me as before. After I grew up and moved away, I thought I was pretty much done and moved on from dealing with this man (except at an occasional get-together), but then something very strange happened to me one day when I was right in the middle of our adoption of our daughter Claire.  Even though I was about to become a mom and was super busy getting ready for our new baby, I kept sensing that the Lord wanted me to reach out to this man, and tell him that I had forgiven him.

As you can imagine, I flatly refused for several days.  But this weight, this nudge, kept getting stronger and stronger. I can’t stand the feeling of not being completely set free, so I finally raised up my hands in frustration and said “Fine Lord. I will call him. But you have to give me the words to say.”

So I dialed the phone and he must’ve had that same rotary phone 🙂 because he picked up right away.  I don’t remember word for word what I said to him, but I told him that I forgave him for what he did to me as a child.  I told him the reason I forgave him is that God has forgiven me of all of my sins, through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, God’s own son. And then, drumroll please….I told him that I loved him.

The line was silent on the other end of that rotary phone for several moments.  In a very quiet voice, and a somewhat broken and contrite voice, he apologized (in so many ways) and he said something to the effect that he was so thankful for my forgiveness and for me calling him and that he felt bad and that someday “he would tell me what was going on during that time.”

I know what you are thinking because I thought the same thing: “Ummm, no. There is never any good reason for abusing an innocent kid.”  Honestly, he never told me the “reason” for his behavior and I never asked him. I think that was the way he was trying to tell me that he had changed and he would never do that again.  I’m not sure. 

But then one more interesting thing happened, and this is the end of the story (or the beginning of a new story, really).  We started talking about Jesus, and God, and forgiveness in more depth.  I shared the gospel with him.  In a nutshell, I told him that God loved him and wanted a relationship with him, and then told him how to become a follower of Jesus Christ. That same “nudge” that had been bugging me all along grew super strong in that moment so I tentatively asked him: “would you be interested in having God forgive you of all your sins and asking Jesus to come live inside of you so you can  be forgiven and have a relationship with God the Father?” 

To my astonishment he said, “Yes!!”

And then I guided him in a prayer of repentance, forgiveness, and new life.  This man received Jesus Christ as his savior and Lord.

When I got off the phone I was beaming and ran to tell Erik, my husband.
From then on, we had a much better relationship. I can’t even believe I’m going to tell you this, but it’s true: I felt so much freedom that I actually had genuine feelings of affection (and even a little bit of care and compassion and yes, even love) towards this man for the first time in my life. I even started to give him real hugs when I saw him.  Before, I would avoid him whenever I came back to my hometown, but now I tried to see him almost every time I came home.

Years later, when he was much older and nearing death, my husband and I reiterated the gospel to him and he once again prayed a prayer to ask Jesus to forgive him and come into his heart.  He was still open to it many years later.  I was even able to be with him a few days before he passed away. I prayed for him, looked directly into his eyes, told him I loved him, and then said goodbye.

I will end on this: apparently one in six men are molested as boys, and one in four girls.  The stats vary, but if those numbers are even close to accurate, they are staggering!! The effects of sexual abuse are very deep and wounding and damaging and broad-ranging.  But the same God who healed me and set me free is available to anyone who needs healing.

Let me add one final qualifier: I realize that not everyone can reconcile with their abuser, and I’m not saying that is even possible or healthy most of the time. Forgiveness is both a process and mostly a matter of the will, not of the emotions.  And forgiveness in no way condones the evil of what those two men did to me.  

Before I close I want to encourage anyone reading who has been abused as a child: if you have not shared your story, share it! Share it with me if you want to.  But share it.  And then begin the process of healing and freedom, whatever that looks like for you.  I have shared a few resources in the P.S. section for your perusal.

I will close with the following very powerful statement from 18 year-old Brandt Jean, who had recently lost his brother Botham Jean. Botham had been murdered by a police officer in his own apartment and Brandt spoke at the female officer’s sentencing hearing.  His statement essentially summarizes my mindset when I reached out to and forgave the man who abused me. (I have summarized his quote for ease of reading.)

“I know that I can speak for myself: I forgive you.  And I know if you go to God and ask Him, He will forgive you.  And I love you just like anyone else.  And, I’m not going to say ‘I hope you rot and die just like my brother did’ but I, personally, want the best for you.  And I wasn’t going to ever say this in front of my family or anyone, but I don’t even want you to go to jail.  I want the best for you. And the best would be to give your life to Christ. I think giving your life to Christ would be the best thing that Botham would want you to do.  I love you.”

I couldn’t have said it any better myself.  

For a short summary of just some of the effects of sexual abuse, click here:

For statistics on child sexual abuse,  including my 1 in 4 girls and 1 in 6 boys stat, click here:

Here is another article with different stats on the numbers:

Wikipedia (with again, different stats on numbers):

Steps towards healing:

To look into healing from a faith perspective:

Many great articles on healing found here:

There is also which is a hotline and resource center.

Would you like to jog to Janie’s Got a Gun?  Click here:

And finally, special thanks to the Oprah Winfrey show about the sexual abuse of men (and then subsequently she interviewed the molesters) that helped me to be able to share this story here.  I still get teary-eyed every time I see it:

The Gift of Fear

Fear can be a gift if you can get to the roots and then grow some wings…


Everybody is afraid of something.

Maybe you are a happily married mom whose husband travels frequently, and you find yourself checking his flight status constantly because you are secretly afraid that you will become a widow long before your time.

Perhaps you are like my husband, who works extremely hard because he subconsciously wonders whether or not we will have enough money when we eventually retire.

Or maybe you are like me and you fear major change.  Our family moved several months ago and I struggled with the fear of the unknown.

No matter how big and strong you are, everybody is afraid of something.

Many years ago I read an excellent book called the “Gift of Fear” by Gavin de Beker, a book that educates readers on how to trust their gut instincts in order to reduce their chances of becoming the victim of a violent crime.  Many of the principles I learned have stayed with me over the years and I have used the “if your gut thinks something is off, it probably is” concept many times.

In this post, I will highlight several fears I have struggled with throughout my life and how I have found freedom and healing from many of them. I can summarize my approach to handling fear using two simple words:

Roots and Wings

Roots: I had to learn to get to the root of the fear and be able to summarize it in simple terms, and then thrust that fear into the light. 

Wings: I imperfectly rise above the fear with God’s help and strength. 

Think of fear as being an indicator light in your car, letting you know that something is wrong and needs to be fixed.  The “gift” of fear is that sense of freedom and healing I received once the root was identified, brought into the light, and burned away.

I have struggled with many fears including a deep fear of rejection, the fear of moving (which is really the fear of the unknown), and the fear of missing out.  In the following post, I will dig deep into just a few of my fears and how I have found freedom and healing from almost all of them.

The first three I have (thank God) been successful in dealing with, so without further delay…

Fear of ghosts and demons:

Many nights as Erik and I were trying to fall asleep, we would hear what sounded like many squirrels were up in the attic, scurrying around.  We were lazy and tired so we let it go for months (I’m embarrassed to admit this). One day, Erik’s brother Ed came for a visit and Erik and Ed ended up working in the attic.  While they were up there, I asked them to look for any evidence of squirrels (like nests, droppings, etc) and report back.  They came down later and said “nothing. No squirrels.”  

That night as we were in bed trying to fall asleep, the racket started up again.  I looked at Erik and said “those stupid squirrels!”  Right then a thought popped into my head: ‘those are not squirrels.”  At first, I was filled with fear as I thought: what can that possibly be?  Is that a demon up there?

Roots: using the roots and wings model, I figured out that the root fear was fear of the unknown, and the fear of physical or spiritual harm.  In this particular case, I had a fear of paranormal or supernatural (or demonic) activity.

Wings: I had already learned about the authority I had through Jesus Christ to make demons go away. I looked up toward the attic and prayed that the demon(s) leave my attic in Jesus’ name. Right at the moment I finished praying, there was a very loud BOOM that filled up our entire bedroom!!  It was as if something was pissed and hit the side of the attic wall with angry force.  It was so loud that Erik and I jumped out of our bed in alarm!  After that huge boom there was complete and utter silence.  There was never a peep in the attic from that day forward.

I have experienced paranormal activity throughout my entire life. Using God’s power to get rid of scary thing has worked every time!

Fear of marriage:

It’s not that I didn’t want to marry Erik (my husband) because I most certainly did! He was and still is a wonderful man. But I was extremely terrified that he would change after marriage.  I’m not sure where the root of that fear came from, but it may have been from my deep distrust of men and their potential to hurt me or reject me, or maybe I had watched too many LifeTime movies. Not sure.  🙂

Anyway, I remember listening to the old Elton John song “Someone Saved My Life Tonight” while I studied for Masters degree at his apartment.  I remember writing a school paper on Erik’s computer while quietly singing the famous lines of the song under my breath (because Erik was within ear-shot): 

“You nearly had me roped and tied.  Altar bound, hypnotized, sweet freedom whispered in my ear.  You’re a butterfly, and butterflies are free to fly.”   

I would then look over at Erik and secretly wonder if he was tricking me this whole time and secretly waiting to turn into a psycho after marriage.  Looking back, this fear was silly and irrational, but at the time, it had a hold on me.

Roots: Fear of death (maybe not physical death, but the death of a dream of a happy marriage), fear of being fooled, fear of rejection (of course), and finally, the worst one for me: the fear of being trapped in a bad marriage.  I am a very free-spirited person who likes to make very careful and wise decisions. I didn’t want to mess up the biggest decision of my life!

Wings: I turned to the Lord and prayed about it, and told Him all of my fears. I prayed that if Erik was not the man that God had intended for me, could God please communicate that to me in a way I could understand.  

After I prayed God’s will for my life and marriage, I had a peace to go forward with the wedding.  It was like a burden lifted from my shoulders and I felt free!  Erik and I had a beautiful wedding day and (thank God) we still have a happy marriage to this day.  He never did change after marriage and is completely normal to this day!


Fear of moving:

Roots: The number one root was the fear of death of all of my carefully built up relationships, fear of not making good friends, fear of the unknown, fear of change, fear that my kids would not thrive, fear of making a huge mistake, and me not finding my purpose here in our new state.

Wings: I prayed to God to help me to find new friends, help my kids to adjust, help my Maryland friends to still love me and pursue me even if I moved away, and to trust that God was allowing or even orchestrating this move.  Update: it’s been seven months since we moved, and although our new neighborhood is super quiet (compared to the AWESOME hood we have just lived in) my neighbors are very nice, we’ve made a few friends, and my Alderman lives here and I received a part-time job working to help her reelection.  We found a great school for the kids, Khloe is thriving academically and socially, and the girls did great on their varsity basketball team.  Additionally, we remodeled our kitchen and I love it! My Maryland friends still love me. The local area is cool. The weather sucks.

Logan loved playing on his new hockey team!  For this, I’m glad we moved.

Another great thing about moving: exploring all the new and exciting this to do in our new city – Chicago!  I took our host kids there to see the awesome (and scary!) views this winter.  So fun!

Here are two current fears that I am still working on:

Losing my husband and kids:

The only way I have personally developed a peace about this is to entrust my family and the timing of their life on earth into the hands of the Lord. The illustration I heard about this that helped to set me free is that on the back of every gift you have (in this case, my husband and children) exists an expiration date that the Lord himself put there. The expiration date is hidden to us.  The expiration date could be tomorrow, 5 years from now, or 100 years from now.  But, an expiration date exists indeed.  I don’t think this analogy completely eradicates this fear for me, but it puts it into perspective: my husband and children are a gift from God. He is in control of all aspects of life and death and it’s ultimately up to Him as to how long my greatest gifts exist on this earth.  And the root of this fear is being alone and lonely for the rest of my life and just simply enduring the loss of those I love the most in this world.

Fear of little things that cause me stress: 

Stress, for me, is an indication of a small fear that I am not dealing with straight on.  Stress indicates that I am trying to control something that is too hard to completely control.  Lots of times it involves my kids: stress about how my son is doing in school, stress about my daughter’s constant headaches, or stress about getting behind with household or administrative tasks (dumb, but true).  I still need to bring these “smaller fears” into the light by using the roots and wings model. Sadly, I often let these little fears continue on, causing me to become cranky and more controlling with my husband and children.  Not good.

Even this morning my son (who is struggling a little bit in school) said to me: “mom, don’t stress, but my teacher said that we might have all of our tests today because so many people are leaving for Spring Break.”

Because I’m in the midst of writing this post, I calmly said to him: “It’s ok Logan. I trust God.”  But then I added, “but if you want, you can still study on the drive to school.”  🙂

I will close with a qualifier (I always love a good qualifier). God does not always promise us that our greatest fears will not come to pass. I know many people who have lost their battle with cancer, lost a husband or wife, lost a child, have never been married (yet), had to move to a different state or make a major life change, had a friendship change or die, or be trapped in a horrible marriage! 

For me, there are two things about God that take the edge off this reality.

First, I know that no matter what I go through, God promises to go with me and will never leave me:

Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the Lord your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you.” Deuteronomy 31:6

Second, God promises to make all things work together for good. 

“And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose. For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers and sisters.” Romans 8:28.

To summarize this verse, to me it means that God promises to take any bad circumstance and bring good from it, and in the process, God will make me more like his Son, meaning I will have more peace and calm when facing whatever trial God allows for me.  He will also shave off sin and adjust other areas of my life that need major improvement. Sometimes God will allow hard things for me, but He promises to be with me and help me and make something good come from it.

I have learned that I must constantly pray that God’s will would be done, and that He would give me the strength and the wisdom to withstand the trial and be ok with whatever happens.  I pray the Prayer of Relinquishment, which models Jesus’ prayer in the Garden, before He was led away to death.  He prayed several times that the Lord would find another way for Him to make atonement for the sins of mankind, but God said no, it had to be the cross.  Finally, Jesus ended up praying: “Nevertheless, not my will, but your will be done.”  Jesus went to the cross and died for the sins of the world, and was resurrected on the third day.  He accomplished what He came to do.

So why is fear a gift?  Fear eventually turns into a gift of perspective as it no longer has control over me in the same way.  The true gift that fear can eventually give me is the gift of freedom and healing.  No longer will that fear have control or power over me.  

In summary, the gift of freedom and healing makes it worth facing down my greatest fears!

“But those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.” Isaiah 40:31

Blue Collar Girl Trapped in a White Collar Marriage

I want to take you back to the 1970s and 80s and reminisce about what it was like to grow up somewhere on the spectrum between poor and blue-collar in upstate New York, where I grew up.  Back to the days when it was common to see a 1971 Plymouth Baracuda cruising down the streets of Syracuse, windows open, driven around by a guy in a dark blue uniform with a name-tag, blasting “Free Bird” or “Stairway to Heaven.” Maybe there’s a cigarette dangling from his dirty/greasy hands, hands that are hard to get completely clean.

Maybe there’s a little blonde-haired girl in the back seat with him, looking out the window, hoping the smoke will stop blowing into her face.

Me, as a young girl.

That little girl was me, and I want to share with you my perspective of what it was like to grow up in a blue collar single-parent family — both the good and the bad— and what I have learned since then.  I will also share how I have changed (or not) since transitioning to a white collar marriage several years ago.

Here is my super quick back-story:

I grew up the child of a single working mom after my parents’ divorce at the age of four.  My dad worked at a local car manufacturing company and we didn’t see him very much because he was always working (overtime, double-time, and other terms his union negotiated for him), and did not consistently seek out a relationship with my sister and me. There were also some dysfunctional elements of my childhood in the mix as well.  My single mom was poor, and we (my sister, mom, and me) survived on her small secretary’s salary.  Child support was very low back then so I always noticed how hard she struggled.  Our small family of three drove around in a brown pinto and didn’t go out to eat much because we couldn’t “afford it.” On hot summer days, we would beg my mom to stop at Arctic Isle (the local ice cream stand) for a $1.00 soft serve ice cream cone and the answer was always “no, it’s too expensive, we have ice cream in the freezer at home.” My mom was very cheap and often said no to buying almost anything that wasn’t a necessary item.

Not having a lot of money growing up made me take a good, hard look around me and make some serious inner vows. Vows such as:

“I will work really hard, go to school, and make good money so I won’t have to struggle.”

“I will marry an awesome guy and we will NOT get a divorce.”

“And if don’t get married, fine.  I will do really well in my career.”

“I will show everyone that I am not a loser and will make something of myself.”  (Not sure exactly where that one came from, but I think it stemmed from some deep-seeded self-confidence issues.)

With those inner vows in the back of my mind, I started babysitting at 11, worked my way through high school and college (clocking in between 20 and 30 hours per week as a waitress during college), and then landed a professional job in my early 20’s.  I eventually got married and ended up in what I call a white-collar marriage. On a side note, I was also very picky about the guys I dated, making sure I wouldn’t end up with a “creep,” a “perv,” or a “loser.”  Bottom line?  I didn’t go on many dates.

Below is just a portion of the more difficult aspects of growing up in the poor/blue collar income bracket. Perhaps you can relate to some of these?

  • …First, I remember all the CIGARETTE SMOKE.  Smoke in the house.  Smoke in the car.  Smoke in a tree.  (How can that be?) I have so many memories of just sitting in front of a various TVs that sat perched on the green living room carpet, watching maybe Star Trek, Evel Knievel, or Scooby Doo while someone smoked behind me in an easy chair, reading a newspaper. Growing up in a smoke cloud gave me (subconscious) permission to begin smoking myself very part-time through high school and college.  I finally quit in my early 20s.

I am a proud survivor of years of second hand smoke.  I began smoking part-time in high school but quit in my early 20s.

  • …We MOVED a lot.  I have many fond/not so fond memories of various apartment buildings, houses we shared with other friends, and yes….I even spent some time in the coveted trailer park.  I will never, ever forget how tiny those little trailer bedrooms were, and the trailer closets were ridiculous.  On an up note, I was able to share a house (different units) with my best friend Hillary, who was also in a single-parent home, which was awesome. We also lived in the same apartment building a couple of times.
  • …We had NO MONEY.  I heard “we can’t afford that” about 1000 times.  Want to stop at McDonalds?  Nope, not gonna happen.  If you want money, you had to get your butt off the couch and go earn it, all by yourself.  So that’s exactly what I did. I have never stopped working and to be honest, it’s so strange for me to not work in a way that earns an income to this day (more on that later). I am still so grateful that my grandparents were so generous with my sister and me — they provided everything from new Trapper Keepers for back to school (remember those?), to new clothes and shoes, to very generous Christmas gifts.
  • …As mentioned above, I didn’t see much of my DAD. Early in life, I developed some father-figure issues and ended up crushing a lot of older men, and men in positions of authority over me. However, I did appreciate his hard work ethic.  He even built our house from scratch and much later, my mom moved back into it and still lives there to this day. We now have a great relationship (as adults), but again, he wasn’t around much growing up and that was hard for me.
  • ….Finally, I struggled with some TOUGH EMOTIONS.  I often felt ashamed of my clothes, house, and cars.  I felt insecure and unworthy of love.  I feared rejection.  There were some things that happened that caused some deep wounds, that I have (thankfully) since healed from.  But they were very hard to go through at the time.

Yes, friends, that is a beer in my hand 🙂

But growing up blue-collar was also a blessing in many ways.  Here are just a few of the positive elements of growing up in a blue-collar family:

  • First and foremost, I developed an amazing WORK ETHIC.  I have no problem with doing “real work,” “physical work,” and “working with my hands.”  Because my grandfather was in the farming business (he built silos) and also we lived near a farm, I actually have helped neighborhood kids with their farm chores.  I have also actually picked the following: rocks in a huge farm pasture/field, tomato horn worms off of tomato plants,  and weeds from my mom’s garden.  I mowed the lawn consistently (when not living in apartment complexes). In fact, I still happily mow my own yard here in Suburbia while my neighbors watch me curiously from their windows.  Bottom line?  I am not lazy and I’m not afraid of real work.
  • Secondly, I KEEP IT REAL with no BS.  You will always get the real deal from me. I will always shoot 100 percent straight with you.  I don’t like to lie; it makes me uncomfortable.  The only lie I will tell you is if you ask me directly if you look fat in that dress, and if you do, I will feel bad, and I will lie and say no.  You have been warned.  But that’s about the only lie I feel okay about.  Sorry not sorry.
  • Thirdly, I will never be pretentious. I will never think I’m better than you.  I will always treat everyone THE SAME.  And I will always be generous.  I will always over-tip waiters and waitresses, and I will always say “hi” and “thank you” to all the people who make my life easier.  Why would I be snooty with waitresses and maids?  I actually did both of those jobs for many years to earn a living.  Those are my peeps.

Having fun at one of the restaurants (the Ground Round) I worked at during college.  I sometimes clocked up to 30 hours per week waitressing during school.  Growing up blue collar gave me a kick-butt work ethic.

  • Lastly, I developed an appreciation for the CLASSICS, and no I’m not talking about classical music or classical home-schooling eduction.  I’m talking about Classic cars and classic rock, baby.  Whenever I go back to Syracuse I still see folks driving around in a classic car blasting classic rock.  I just went to one the Eagles’ final concerts last summer before their lead singer passed away.  It was a blast!  (see photo below.)

    My dad owns five classic (muscle) cars purchased in the last ten years.  These were the cars I grew up around.  I want one.

His Plymouth Baracuda.  My appreciation for classic cars came from my dad.

So what have I learned since “moving on up” to a different income level?

First, I actually really appreciate money and where it came from.  It is a blessing to actually have some of it.  But here’s the deal: I never want to rely too heavily on money or grow accustomed to being upper middle class.  Why?  Because I developed a deep financial insecurity early on. I know deep in my heart that you can have money one moment, but then the next moment…POOF! It’s gone.  And then you are back to square one. So I decided to not even leave square one in the first place.

Secondly, I am still cheap (especially with myself) and don’t like to spend money.  I still clip coupons (if I feel like it, because coupons are really a pain), and try to limit my children’s material possessions so they don’t become “spoiled.”

Thirdly, I still feel weird about not working outside the home in a way that generates an income. I still feel a little bit like a “moocher” even though my husband assures me he is fine with me being a stay at home parent.  I do plan to work again when my kids are older and after our next adoption, but I would prefer to work part time.

And on that note, I think that’s one of the best things money will buy you: options.  I have the option of working part-time rather than full-time down the road. Our family has the option of spending our money on nice vacations (we have created memories for our kids and have taken them to some nice places). We have the option of buying my kids sneakers exactly when they need them, rather than waiting until the next paycheck comes in.

There is one thing money can buy: precious time with your family!  We do spend money on making memories with our kids, for sure.  Above, Claire and Erik enjoy fishing in a back-country lake in Utah.

Fourthly, I have learned that money doesn’t buy happiness or inner peace.  However, it does buy time and convenience.  It’s either time or money.  Either you spend the time on something and save the money, or spend the money on something and get back some of your time.  So in that way, it’s a lot easier to exist in a white-collar world.

Finally, the number one reason I believe God has blessed us with a little bit of extra income is a. because God is good and He just chooses to bless us in this particular way, b. we both worked very hard to get here, c. to afford to adopt our children, because adoption is expensive, and d. so we can be generous with other people, and also with ministries and other worthy causes that need financial assistance.

Bottom line?  I believe money is a gift to help support and enhance human relationships and to support worthy causes.  If you have money, chances are, God wants you to help others in need.

So why did I choose the title of this blog?  Honestly, I’m not really “trapped”in a white-collar marriage per se, but I feel as though I really don’t belong some elements of this world, deep down.  One night we spent time with another couple who are also in our income bracket.  Both the husband and wife were very cultured and came from solid families, and they had lived all over the world.  Both of them had PhDs from prestigious universities.  As they shared about their childhoods and current successful careers, I felt like I just couldn’t relate to them.  I felt like I had to impress them with something about my life, but I just couldn’t think of anything to say.  I also didn’t feel like I could be completely myself around them.  (Qualifier: most white-collar folks are super, duper nice and not pretentious at all. Maybe they’re a lot like me and didn’t grow up that way. But if they did grow up with wealth, they seem to have a certain self-confidence about them that poor kids lack.  I think I sense this subconsciously and feel I cannot relate.)

In closing, Oprah Winfrey once said that obtaining money just makes you MORE of something.  So if you are kind, you become more kind.  If you are generous, you become more generous.  If you are an arse, you become more of an arse.  I agree with her assessment.

Since transitioning income brackets I have become the following:

More cheap (with myself)

More generous with others

More unpretentious

More hard working 

More efficient with my time 

More grateful for money, but knowing it’s limitations

I am grateful to be where I am today, but I will never forget where I came from.  My childhood made me into the person I am today, and I am grateful for all the lessons it taught me.  Blue-collar workers truly do make the world go round, and I am proud to be counted among them.

So if you see a suburban woman driving around a really nice convertible, blasting the Eagles, drinking coffee from a coffee mug from home because she didn’t want to stop at Starbucks because it’s too expensive, all the while thinking about how she needs to mow her lawn when she gets home, well…that would be me.

I’m teetering between the two worlds, not really fitting into either one at this point.

But that’s ok, because that old saying is true:

The more things change, the more they stay the same.

So while I may be in a white-collar marriage, I’ll always be the same blue-collar girl, deep inside.

Peace out.

Off to the Eagles concert with my dear friend Ragan!


PS: Stay tuned for a future post: Raising Blue Collar Kids in a White Collar family.

Thanks for reading!!

Infertility and Adoption – How I made peace with both


My college girlfriends, at the start of their baby boom.  Me, in the back, with my career.

Many years ago I body-doubled as a full time student at Liberty University as well as an almost full-time lounge waitress at The Ground Round, serving beer and Long Island Ice Teas to mostly semi-drunk rednecks, err…people. I often joked to friends that I was a good Christian college student by day, and a wild cocktail waitress by night.  But that story is for another post.

When it was slow at the restaurant, I would often dream about my future. This is how my future would play out:

First, I was going to find my wonderful husband at Liberty because that’s what all the other girls were doing. Secondly, we would marry and proceed to have four healthy, biological children (two boys and two girls) two years apart, and stop having children when I turned 30 because after the age of 30 you ran the risk of having a child with medical issues.  Thirdly, I would start my career after my kids were in school and finally, we would all live happily ever after.

And that’s exactly how it all played out.


I can tell you with a smirk on my face that the opposite occurred in almost every way!

After college (in which I graduated very much a single young lady) I began an awesome, yet intense professional career (you can read about it here.) When I turned 25, I met a wonderful guy named Erik and we began dating.  He was an amazing guy and after a few months, I had a sneaking suspicion that he just might be ‘the one.’  But then one day he dropped a bomb on me: he told me that many years ago he had undergone chemotherapy treatment for cancer which had left him unable to have biological children.  He delivered this news right before Christmas because I had planned to bring him home to meet the family.

“I need you to know this now, in case you change your mind about bringing me home to meet your family and dating me. I really like you, but I would understand if you feel we need to break things off,” he said to me with sadness in his eyes.

I was devastated and moped around for a few days, wrestling with the decision to stay in a relationship with Erik. However, I had a strong feeling that if I broke things off with him, I would deeply, deeply regret it all the days of my life.  Again, that sneaking suspicion that he was the one kept coming back to me.  Erik was an incredible guy who was very deep, Godly, and intelligent.  That was my version of the Trifecta.  Plus, I knew that if we ever wanted kids, we could always adopt.  So with much prayer and tears, I said YES to Erik and thereby gave up the dream of ever getting pregnant, ever feeling the kick of a baby in my growing belly, and ever seeing our genetic traits come alive in a new human being that we both created.  In summary, I was choosing infertility.

After I prayed, I had a peace that I had done the right thing. Erik and I continued dating, he met my family, we got married, and the rest is history.  And I have never regretted my decision to marry Erik, not even for a second.

So you would think dealing with infertility would be “easier” because I knew about it beforehand rather than being surprised by it after marriage, right?

I think the answer (for me) is yes and no. Yes, in that I knew it all going in and therefore, wasn’t surprised.  And no, because I learned that even if you know about something beforehand, it doesn’t make it that much easier to deal with.  It just takes the edge off, really.

What also made it hard is that I did some research and discovered that in a few cases, men were able to gain their fertility after several years following their chemotherapy treatments. Somewhere deep inside a tiny seed of hope was planted.

So how did the sting of infertility manifest itself? I found myself jealous and comparison-prone when all of my college friends went through their “baby boom.”  I can’t remember the number of baby showers I attended to support my friends with forced (and sometimes real) smiles, gazing at their huge bellies while I looked down at my (mostly) flat one.  I also wrestled with the occasional “trigger.”  For me, a trigger is a “reminder” of what should have been or what could have been if only (fill in the blank).  Three common triggers for me came on Christmas (yet another Christmas and still no baby), my birthday (wow, I’m another year older and still no baby), and of course the mother of all triggers – Mother’s Day!!

Other triggers included finding out that a previously infertile couple was now expecting. Of course I was overjoyed for them but also painfully aware that they had indeed left The Club, while we were still active members of it.  As I mentioned, I also wrestled with comparison.  Many of my best friends started their families very young. While I was blazing through my career, they popped out multiple babies.  It was weird watching their children celebrating their fifth birthday while I had nothing cooking in my own personal oven.

People also accidentally say insensitive things to infertile couples. I heard things like:

“Slow down and just relax. It will happen!” … “All in God’s perfect timing!” and … “Oh, I understand what you are going through.  We tried for two whole months before we finally got pregnant.”

I could go on but you get the gist. In a nutshell, infertility is hard, it makes you feel “lesser than,” you tend to compare yourself with women that easily conceive, you might grow jealous and insecure quite frequently, people say insensitive things, it’s expensive to deal with, it causes lots of stress in the relationship, and you sit around wondering how you are ever going to build your family.

One last note about infertility: infertility is a very hidden, easily masked, very painful and private experience for one in eight married couples. Please be careful before you make comments to young (or not so young) married couples like: “when are you going to start a family?”  You have no idea what they may be going through!  Ok, on with the story.

Obviously, Erik and I were aware that adoption was the only option available for us to build our family. But here’s the problem. My heart wasn’t really “into” adoption for several reasons, mostly reasons that I am embarrassed to admit to you, so I am asking for your permission2speakfreely here, without judgment.  And so I will.  Below were my concerns about adoption (before we adopted):

  1. I won’t love the baby because it won’t be “my own.”
  2. What if the baby is ugly? I probably will not love an ugly baby.
  3. Adoption is second choice; a Plan B. It’s “not as good as” having a beautiful bio baby.
  4. Most people want to have their “own, biological” baby. People only adopt because “they have to” in order to have kids (similar to number three, but broadening it out to the general population).
  5. Adoption is scary because the babies might have to deal with potential drug and alcohol abuse while they are in utero, and the occasional brownie.
  6. Adoption is so much paperwork and it’s unfair because they make you go through so many hoops that other parents don’t have to go through.

To make a long story short, we ended up adopting three awesome kids (you can read their stories below), and now I can honestly say that numbers one through four are just plain WRONG and ignorant. There is some truth to numbers 5 and 6, however.  Especially number six.  Adoption is a LOT of work, you have to get “clearance” to adopt from a wide variety of sources, and each box you check off for your paperwork can have several hours of effort (and waiting) behind it.  You have to “prove” you are worthy to adopt (whereas folks who become pregnant the old fashioned way can just become parents, even if they are lousy parents).  It feels very unfair and intrusive at times.

(On a side note/rant, I also wrestled with how hard the process is to adopt children world-wide who need homes. For example, I have a friend whose parents live and work in Venezuela.  Her mother-in-law volunteers at a hospital and routinely sees babies as young as three months old abandoned at the hospital due to the on-going crisis in that country. There are thousands of good families all over the world who would be willing to take in these babies in (and others like them world-wide) but because so many governments stand in the way, it’s not possible.  And the children suffer.  Some countries even close their adoption programs because of the stigma of having other cultures care for their own children. Again, the children suffer.)

So on to the conclusion of my story. So…having dealt with infertility and adoption, you would think everything would wrap up with a neat little bow at this point, correct?

It would have except for something weird that has happened to us/me that very few people know about.

For almost two decades, I believe God has spoken to Erik and me about believing Him for a miracle pregnancy. What??  You ask.  I know!!  I’m in my 40s.  Nobody my age is even having babies anymore, many of my friends have kids in college and some of my friends are actually (gulp) grandparents!  I know it’s crazy.   But I could tell you story after story of God speaking to me and overall confirming to me to keep believing for this miracle.   We even felt directed to attempt two IVF cycles (which subsequently failed).  The Lord gave us many big and small signs along the way to encourage us to embark out on this faith limb, only to see the limb fall to the ground not once, but twice.  It was a very painful time for us, but Erik and I to this day both believe we were supposed to do both rounds of IVF for some mysterious reason.

The question I have been wrestling with for years is this: why would God keep asking us to believe Him for a miracle that He never delivers? It’s been eighteen long years that this has been going on and I’m still not pregnant.  Could it be that we need to adopt all the kids we are supposed to adopt first?  I think that is one plausible explanation.  There are others.  But it’s still a mystery with no closure (and I love closure).  I’ve prayed numerous times that God would please let me know if I have misunderstood Him or if it’s time to move on.  But as of right now I believe I am supposed to remain in a state of suspended animation and faith that it still could actually happen.


My three beautiful kiddos.  I wouldn’t have it any other way.

In conclusion, I am thankful for the hard yet wonderful gift of infertility, which gave me three of my most valuable treasures. I wouldn’t have it any other way.  As for the mystery?  God is in that too.  And even if that never resolves in a way that makes sense, the Lord knows what He is doing and has a plan. I need only to look at the faces of my three beautiful children to know that the biggest mystery is solved: we couldn’t have our “own” kids because God had our “own” kids coming to us in a different way.

And that, my friends, is good enough for me.


Thanks for reading!  For those who missed my kiddos’ adoption stories….

You can read Khloe’s Adoption story here

You can find Claire’s here

And Logan’s here

PS: A quick note to infertile women (who would love a family): I am now about 80% of the way across the “infertility bridge” and can look back with some hindsight.  I can honestly say to you that things will get better and everything will eventually will work itself out, I promise. Everything happens for a reason, to quote a man-made proverb, and for us, we were meant to adopt.  I don’t know what it will look like for you.  And as for all my friends who had kids ahead of me (for example my awesome college buddies pictured above) I love them because they give me such great intel on what to expect in just a few short years (plus some great hand-me-downs).  Many other friends and family ended having kids around the same time I did, and I found out that most older kids play with younger kids anyway, or babysit them later, which is also very cool.  I’m now in my 40s and guess what?  It’s really not that big of a deal to have kids when you’re older.  A lot of women are getting pregnant or adopting much later in life.  Having younger kids is keeping me young. I actually might adopt/host/foster more kids in the future.  I guess my point is – everything will eventually work itself out the way it’s supposed to.  I know it’s tough.  Hang in there.   God is with you.  He loves you and will help you. Infertility is unfair and hard and crushing and disappointing and a real pain, I know.  But it will get better!  I promise!

Thanks for reading!