An Honest Update on Chores

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I recently posted about how we manage chores with our big family (click here to read that article), but as I work on restoring the house after the summer break I felt like there were a few things I needed to add. I wrote this last week but haven’t had time to post it, so here it is; an honest update to my chore post.

Having kids help is not always helpful. Having the kids clean sometimes results in a bigger mess. I don’t want anyone out there thinking that my sweet wonderful helpful kids do all the cleaning in my house or that I have it easy. I really do think my approach is the harder approach. It would be much easier for me to do all the cleaning myself, but it would not yield the same fruit. The fruit I am looking for is not that of a clean house. I am looking to establish an attitude and a desire to help.

Yes my children as young as 18 months old help with dishes and laundry, but I certainly don’t criticize them for doing it wrong. That seems obvious in a child that young, but it might not be so obvious in a 6-year-old. You may be tempted to demand a level of finesse or perfection that they might honestly be capable of. But if you are focused on perfection and ability you will most likely lose sight of what matters in the long run, and that is the attitude. The attitude is always far more important than the task being done!

Who your child is becoming is more important than what they do today!

-Northpoint Ministries

Physical capabilities to clean and attain perfection are honestly a given unless your child has a physical disability. This also happens to be one of my major criticisms of the current educational system. Children are going to learn and the speed with which they learn is not nearly as important as the attitude they have towards learning. A child with a high IQ but an unteachable attitude and lack of curiosity will ultimately learn less than a lower IQ child with a healthy curiosity and a good attitude. You cannot stop a child from learning if the desire is there.

Likewise, you cannot stop a child from becoming a helpful adult if they have a teachable heart and a desire to help.

I am sitting here on the floor of my laundry room as I write this. My 3-year-old was helping with the laundry when I heard the 11-month-old crying in her room next door. I went to get her out of her crib and change her diaper and in that time he loaded the washer with all the clean clothes that had just come out of the drier leaving the dirty hamper still full of dirty clothes. I walked in and he proudly proclaimed “I help look I did it!” At that moment I had a choice I could get irritated by the fact that clean laundry is getting cleaned again (my pet peeve) or praise him for his desire to help. I am not saying it was an easy choice I had to die to myself and my own desire to be caught up on laundry. I thanked him and gave him a huge high five and now I’m sitting here on the floor letting go of my need to have things perfect while he proudly crumples up towels in an attempt to fold them and the littlest one is flopping socks around.

Dying to yourself looks different than I thought it would when I first read these sentiments penned by the apostle Paul. It isn’t always grand and noble-looking. It doesn’t result in revival and mass baptisms on the river. Sometimes it is a quiet moment in a laundry room with a hope that your efforts will yield lasting fruit in growing hearts.

My Testimony - Part 4

Which Will

Submitting

I’m spending a little time sharing my testimony on my blog right now. It is a 4 part series. This is the fourth installment if you want to start at the beginning click here. In the first installment, I give a background on what my home life was like spiritually for the first 12 years of my life. In the second installment, I tell the story of how I came to believe in Jesus as the Son of God. In the third installment, I tell you about how I came to accept Jesus Christ as my savior.

I endured my mom and stepdad for only a few more months after that faithful Christmas Eve. You see my mom has borderline personality disorder and is bi-polar. Her moods started shifting and that awful man wasn’t fulling her as she had expected and she was ready to move on to the next thing that promised to bring her happiness and fulfillment.

Things rapidly spiraled out of control starting in March. I had gone on a trip with my dad and stepmom to-be for Spring Break and while I was gone my mom had spent time with her high school bestie, who happened to be a functioning drug addict. From her, my mom got validation that if this man wasn’t making her happy she should move on to what made her happy. I returned to find that my mom made the walls of my apartment psychedelic pink and had smoked a significant amount of pot in there - though she insisted that a skunk had climbed up the staircase at the back of the garage and sprayed my apartment without provocation.

At this time my stepdad underwent a change of heart and conviction of his actions towards me. He and my mom had a winter home in a city about 3 hours away. He spent the entire winter there for the most part while my mom traveled back and forth because her company was still in our hometown. On his trip back up to our home town for the spring season, he had spent the entire 3 hours thinking of a way to make me cry when he arrived.

At this point, I had settled into an acceptance of the situation and was enduring them with a degree of peace. I had Jesus and I would be graduating high school the following year. I was no longer insulted and offended by my stepdad’s hatred of me. I was no longer shocked at my mom’s indifference. I had found contentment within the situation. I was the queen of my own little kingdom.

My stepdad pulled the horse trailer in the back fence and I met him there to help him unload all of his horses. The first words out of his mouth were the words he had planned and rehearsed for 3 hours “You can no longer park your car in the garage under the apartment, you have to park it over there.” He pointed at the corner of the land furthest from the garage apartment.

“Do you want me to move it now or shall I move it after we are done unloading the horses?” was my response. I could tell that it disarmed him and he looked shocked. He mumbled something about it not needing to be done today and maybe it was okay to leave my car where it was. He unhitched the truck from the trailer and drove off leaving me to unload the horses and unpack the tack room myself.

The next day I received an invitation from him to dinner at the main house. This wasn’t entirely unusual, but it often meant that they were not in the mood to cook and wanted me to make the dinner for them. I walked in prepared to make Taco salad, their favorite meal, but my stepdad had already cooked dinner. I sat down watching him and trying to gauge his mood and figure out what was going on.

At last, he spoke. In a frenzy of words, he confessed to having spent 3 hours the previous day thinking of ways to make me cry. He admitted to intentionally spent the last 5 years trying to make my life as miserable as he possibly could. He apologized, he repented, he explained, and at last, he asked for forgiveness - not that day, but eventually. He said my non-reaction the day before had convicted him and that he had left straight away to go to the pastor of the church and confess everything which he had just said to me and to enroll in counseling and therapy.

I was stunned. I was silent. My mom, however, broke the silence. She exclaimed that she knew it all the whole time and that he was despicable and would be filing for divorce. My mouth dropped open and I looked at her for a long time with so many emotions boiling up inside, but I said nothing. Over the next few months, she dismantled our life with him. Everything I had valued, my horse, my privacy, my freedom, my future dreams, my little kingdom I had built for myself - they were all taken away.

I spiraled into a depression. I started running to numb the pain and thoughts that were warring inside of me. I ran when I woke up, I ran mid-afternoon, and I ran after dinner. I did sit up and crunches in between. I eventually worked my way into running 7 miles a day and 15 miles on, particularly bad days. I was nauseous from my emotions so I stopped eating, though not intentionally. I lost 50 pounds in two months.

I moved in with my dad temporarily while my mom sorted things out and found a new place to live. I was happier there and wanted to stay but I wasn’t 18 and she threatened to get the police involved if I didn’t come live with her. I was defeated and moved back in with her. She was also a mess, but I was unable to take care of her and be there for her as I had when she and my dad had gotten a divorce. 

She sat on the couch for hours every day watching TV and my hatred of her grew. She wanted all of my attention and I wanted to give her nothing. I continued on at church, not the same church, but a church my friends attended. She hated that my attention was given there and forbid me to go and insisted that all the Christian books be disposed of and removed from the house. For the first time ever I outright and deliberately disobeyed her and I didn’t care. I hid the books in my car and continued to go to church with my friends. The most remarkable thing I did in rebellion though was, at last, I opened my bible and I read it for myself.

I started at the very beginning and worked my way to the end. Of course, most of it was over my head. I was in the violence of emotions when I read and I couldn’t take it all in, but it opened the door to me. I could read the bible and not somehow suddenly and accidentally start worshipping the devil.

Jason and I got married and moved across the country. I didn’t realize it then, but I was still stuck in my depression. Life was better and I wasn’t running, but I still was very unhappy. I had suffered and it was all for nothing, and I couldn’t make sense of it. I stewed in anger and I hated people. There were a few people I tolerated but mostly I preferred animals to people.

The thing is, my life was so vastly better and different than it had been, at last, there was light when before all I had known was darkness. I couldn’t see that there was still darkness because it was not as dark as it was. I say I was unhappy, and yet I was the happiest I had ever been.

A few years later M was born and at that moment that I saw her sweet little face, I started to soften. I realized that people weren’t as bad as I had thought and that while I loved animals, no pet would ever be as important to me as that little girl. 

I started doing Bible studies with other women instead of my own haphazard reading. I learned about Jesus in deeper ways than you can ever learn from Sunday sermons alone. 

For a time Jason and I attended a church that was very heavy into the idea of prayer. I wouldn’t say they were “name it and claim it”, but without proper follow up and study on my own part I began to buy into this idea that if I had enough faith God would do whatever I prayed. I don’t think at the time I would have identified that in myself, but I was positive that if I asked with enough faith He would move a mountain. I never had reason to pray for a mountain to move so alas all the mountains of the world are still in their God-ordained place.

I believed Jesus was the son of God, I accepted him as my Savior, but I was learning to see him as Lord. You see God was at the beck and call of my prayer whim and His answering was based on my own degree of faith and had nothing to do with His majesty. God’s will was submitted to my level of faith. Oh how differently I would have prayed had I only realized all of this sooner.

As I was working through my anger issues (you can click here to read more about that) I started realizing that all of my anger was coming from things not being as I wanted them to be. My sweet 4th child was a doozy and life was tough with him during his first year. When he was 10 months old I had a moment with a group of women when it all made sense (you can click here to read about it). At last, I submitted to Jesus as my Lord. I learned to bring my hopes and dreams, emotions and fears - all of me - under his Will and not my own.

Do I have everything all figured out? Heck no! It is a daily thing, seeking out Jesus. I’m still on a journey with him - in fact, right now He’s showing me a lot about Faith, Will, and Submission. I hope to be able to blog about that soon, but for now, I’m content learning at His pace.

Read more: My Testimony - Part 4

My Testimony - Part 3

The Crazy Night

Accepting

I’m spending a little time sharing my testimony on my blog right now. It is a 4 part series. This is the third installment if you want to start at the beginning click here. In the first installment, I give a background on what my home life was like spiritually for the first 12 years of my life. In the second installment, I tell the story of how I came to believe in Jesus as the Son of God.

My mom and that boyfriend of her’s eventually got married. His dislike of me did not fade or soften with familiarity, in fact, I’m pretty sure in this case familiarity bred contempt. He and my mother dated for 3 years before they got married, and the length of that courtship was probably so long because he tried to negotiate me out of the deal. Unfortunately due to my parents' divorce agreement and my dad working the night shift I was unavoidable baggage my mom had to take along with her - at least that is what the man-made me feel every single day.

When they married my mom sold her house and we moved into his place. He had more acreage than we had and his land backed up to Forest Service so it was for the horses we had. His property also had an apartment over the garage. While he couldn’t ditch me entirely he could force me to live in this apartment. I was told I was not to come to the main house unless I had a direct invitation from him or my mother.

He was the first Christian that I had really got to meet outside of our neighbors so many years before and he was quite the specimen. It’s not the purpose of this story for me to detail the abuse that occurred leading up to the wedding and the years they were married, I will only say that it was awful, and at times unbearable and that my mother was fully aware of everything that was going on.

A bitterness grew in me towards Christians and the church. I had my stepfather and his abuse, and my mother blindly turning and eye or yelling at me for being hurt by it all. They became my stereotype for what Christians were like. I loved God but I hated his followers!

The town in which I grew up was heavily influenced by the new age movement and Universalism was at every turn. I began to wonder if perhaps the Christian path wasn’t the only path. Now I had never read the bible for myself nor had anyone read to me Jesus’s declaration that He is the way the truth and the life and that none could get to the Father without Him. I believed Jesus was the son of God, but I began to question if He was the only way to get to God.

How could a loving God, which I truly believed Him to be, have such awful followers? Maybe this wasn’t the true path. Maybe this wasn’t the purest form of worshipping the divine. Perhaps if God was as loving as I thought He was, He could be better found with followers who were also loving.

I have an aunt who claims to be a pagan priestess of the holy mother goddess. She was so accepting and loving of everyone including those who were different from her. I watched her. I watched the people who orbited around her, it seemed like a community I could be a part of - minus the weird tendency toward nudity. If it weren’t for my aversion to this I probably would have drunk the Koolaid. 

This nudity and sexual promiscuity gave me pause to question if her way was, in fact, the right way. You see I was a good kid. I didn’t do drugs, I didn’t have sex, I got all A’s - other than my irritating tendency towards self-assuredness and arrogance I was a model teenager! I was 99% sure that my aunt smoked pot on the regular, this was obviously back when it was illegal in AZ. I didn’t want to associate with anything that was illegal.

Doubt raged just below the surface for some time. Then Christmas Eve happened in 2002. I had gotten a job as a waitress at a local Chinese restaurant. My dad had been the food delivery guy there since I was 3 years old so the family was long-time friends of ours. The place had become a refuge for me. My stepdad loved Chinese, but he hated that place so I was always guaranteed a break from him and my mom while I was there.

That was until that particular Christmas Eve. My mom and stepdad had decided to have dinner there that night, one fo the busiest nights of the entire year. The line for a table was 90 minutes long and people were waiting outside in the snowy parking lot to get in and get a table, and there in the center of my section sat my mom and stepdad. He was making a scene. He was being horrible and humiliating and it was non-stop.

At last my boss had had enough. She marched over to the table and let go of all the anger that she had bottled up for the year and a half that I had worked there. 

“How dare you let him talk to your daughter like that? What kind of mother are you? And you,” She said turning on my stepdad, “vial scum picking on a 17-year-old girl like this. Get out of my restaurant.”

My stepdad refused to move, but the manager, seeing the situation unfold had already gone to the kitchen and got the very large, and very scary looking Mexicans from the back. Bringing the entire kitchen and cooking process to a stop they all marched up to the table and made sure my mom and stepdad left to a round of applause from the dining room. I was astounded, I was shocked, I was honored that they had stood up for me.

In that high of feeling valued and loved I finished out the night and my shift. I drove home with the misguided belief that I had attained a victory and that I would arrive unnoticed and go home to the quietness of my apartment like I did every other night after work. I was very wrong! 

They were waiting for me. I won't go into the details, but they exacted their revenge on me. I went to bed that night with nothing left of me. They had robbed me of everything and my strong will was at last broken. I was brewing in bitterness and anger as I lay awake curled up in a ball on my bed. 

They could take away everything. They could control everything about my life. They had all the power and I had none.

There was only one thing left that they could never control or take away and that was my heart and my mind. I wanted to make them pay. I wanted to disgrace them and expose them for the frauds that they were. They were well respected within our church and having a daughter who was a pagan would be the worst thing I could do to them, they couldn’t force me into being a Christian.

The wrestling and doubt had finally reached its pinnacle. Before I went to sleep I prayed “God I don’t know who you are or which path is the right path to you. I want you and only you. I don’t want any of this anymore. I hate them and I don’t want their way anymore. If all gods really do lead to one I want to pick a different way. I want you, but I want a different way. If it’s ok I’m going to take this other path, I’m going to become a pagan and dance to the divine in the moonlight.”

I drifted off to sleep with these thoughts and in utter turmoil. I was surprised to wake up in the middle of the night. I didn’t know what woke me, but I was fully awake and alert, considering the wretchedness in which I fell asleep I felt remarkably well. There was no tension in my limbs that I could feel, everything felt wonderful. I turned to look at the clock and I caught my own eye. There I was laying on the bed, I looked so peaceful while I slept, so beautiful. These were my thoughts for a moment or two before utter panic washed over me, I should not be looking at myself sleeping.

Then I saw it. There was a creature lurking over at my bedside. It reached forward and grabbed my left arm and searing pain ripped through my whole being. At that moment I heard a quiet whisper deep inside my soul “Who you are going to call for help matters, choose wisely.”

I forced myself to shout the only thing that made sense at that moment - Jesus Christ!

With a giant gasp of air, I was suddenly back in my own body and struggling to sit upright in bed. I spent the rest of the night in prayer. That was the night that I came to understand and accept Jesus Christ as my Savior.

Read more: My Testimony - Part 3

My Testimony - Part 2

My Big Decision

Believing

I’m spending a little time sharing my testimony on my blog right now. It is a 4 part series. This is the second installment if you want to start at the beginning click here. In the first installment, I give a background on what my home life was like spiritually for the first 12 years of my life.

I am not entirely sure why, but I had it in my head that 12 was quite practically a grown-up and I was old enough to start making some more serious decisions about my life. Amoung my arbitrary decisions, one of the ones I love to laugh at now is that I could use a knife to cut my own food. It is a good thing I made that decision because my mom started dating the man that would later become my stepfather and I was frequently on my own for dinner during this season.

 My big decision was that I wanted to be a Christian. At that time to me, that meant that I got to own my own bible and I could go to the church at the end of the street we lived on by myself if my mom wasn’t willing to go with me. I had been longing to go to church since the Christian family had lived next to us, but my mom had always refused to take me. Now I was old enough to take myself. I was strong-willed and persuasive so my mom gave into me rather than argue most of the time.

 I had my mom take me to Target so I could buy a dress, I hated them and didn’t own any dresses, but I was 99% sure you had to wear a dress to go to church. After Target we went to the Hastings bookstore next to it and I picked out a bible of my very own that I could buy with my allowance money. I picked out a pale pink Precious Moments illustrated New King James bible. I sat in the car on the drive home and held it in my hands like it was precious jewels. I was so excited to have a bible of my very own. 

 My mom was struggling with all of this. I could tell she had something she wanted to say but she held it in until we got home. She snatched the bible out of my hands as soon as we walked in the door. This naturally made me furious and I jumped to my temper and demanded she give it back to me - it was purchased with my money, not hers and she couldn’t take it from me or claim that it was hers. She held it back and focused her stern glare at me, clearly not happy with my outburst and said: “I’ll give it back to you, but you have to promise me you won't read it on your own.”

 I crossed my arms over my chest sizing her up getting ready to stage an all-out battle over this one.

 “You don’t understand what is written in this book and you can’t read it unless you understand it. If you read it and you don’t understand it, the devil will come in and twist it all up on your brain and you will worship him and not God. I won't have a devil worshipper in my house! You can take it to church and read from it only to follow along with what the pastor is preaching on.”

 Despite the fact that I had decided I was grown up I really wasn’t and her words scared me. I promised I would only read it to follow along with the pastor and she handed me the book back. It was suddenly scary to have it in my hands and had lost much of its magic.

 This event, as scary as it was, I think ended up being a good thing in some ways. I was opened up to the idea that things could be twisted and truth could somehow become not the truth anymore. From that day on all of my prayers than had a special call-out at the very beginning “Dear God, I want only to worship you, the real God, please help me not to be confused and to only follow you.”

 The first Sunday I attended the church at the end of our street I snuck in and sat in the back row and bolted as soon as the service was over. I was so excited and yet so terribly terrified at the same time. A few more weeks of this and I gained my confidence and began moving up closer and closer to the front. If you haven’t gotten it yet, I was fairly self-assured as a little kid, and with familiarity and repetition, I very quickly felt at home and like I belonged in that church.

 After a month I stood happily listening to the adults talk and mingle after service and I smiled and nodded as if I really belonged there and had any clue what anyone was really talking about. I agreed to pray for people and things I knew nothing about because it was what the adults were doing. I can only laugh at how odd I must have seemed to them but no one ever questioned me. They thought I was the child of someone who attended the church, which I later found out.

 Things started to get more serious with the man my mom was dating and he had been an elder at his church, before his divorce. He wanted his girlfriend to be Christian as well and attend church. He hadn’t found a new church since he had been ousted from the previous one so I boldly suggested they attend church with me. This man was about 20 years older than my mom who had me later in life, he belonged in my grandparents’ generation and was not used to a child, let alone a girl child, having her way or stating opinions so decidedly.

 My mom convinced him eventually, though he certainly went into the arrangement with a chip on his shoulder, but when I was happy I wasn’t one to let anyone rain on my parade. I proudly marched them into the church with me one Sunday, I was so happy to show them off. This little peacock display in me probably exacerbated his frustration with the girl child who so decidedly always got her way.

 At the close of the service, I moved over to the familiar group of people I typically listened in on and I boldly introduced my mom and her boyfriend. The scene plays over in my head now and my goodness how I wish I could throw water on the fire that fueled my boldness! My mom’s boyfriend was insulted by my introduction and chastised me for being so very impertinent in front of everyone. It really killed the mood.

 Everyone noticed me for the first time and it dawned on all of them that I hadn’t belonged this whole time. At last one of the people broke the awkward silence and laughingly called out the awkwardness of the situation. “We didn’t realize you had been coming here by yourself all these weeks. We thought you belonged and were just the child of someone or other. If we had realized you had come without your parents…”

 My mom cut her off before she could finish and took this comment as a critique of her parenting. She quickly made some reply defending herself and her parenting and allowing her child to go to a “so-called Christian church” by herself. 

 It got ugly very quickly. My mom insulted them, voices got raised, I checked out in the tension totally confused and wishing it would all end and wondering how it had gotten so wrong. Eventually, in that state, my mom yanked my arm and marched us out of the church. She sat in the front seat indignantly marveling at the nerve of a bunch of strangers to her boyfriend who marveled at my nerve of introduction and didn’t anyone know he had been an elder at his past church?

 The next week I went back to the church naively thinking that all would be well if I went back without my mom and her boyfriend. They were going to attend the church where he and his ex-wife had attended. I walked in the front door and moved toward my favorite row, service was moments away from starting. Everyone was in their places to make the morning greeting and move into the song. The pastor spotted me and came down off the stage and walked right up to me and not too quietly said, “I don’t think you should be coming here anymore. It’s not right for a child to come to church without their parents or their parent's approval. You need to go home now.”

 I was mortified. Everyone had turned to witness what had brought him down off the stage and people were looking at me and whispering to each other, no doubt about the previous week’s scene. I turned, held my head high though my lips were quivering, and marched out and went straight home. I got there just as my mom and her boyfriend were getting ready to leave and they “allowed” me tag along with them. I say it that way because my mom’s boyfriend really didn’t like me and I was never invited to spend time with them without some sort of talk about how I was a child and couldn’t expect to be included in adult things. 

 When I went to church with them that morning I knew full well that I wasn’t really wanted there and that my task was to keep my mouth shut and not speak unless I was directly spoken to. I wasn’t to partake in a general conversation if we were standing as a group talking as I had at the previous church. Seen but not heard doesn’t really describe it, because he would have preferred if I could be invisible and not even be seen - which were his words and not mine.

 Needless to say after my first experience with church I was shy and not entirely confident or comfortable at church. I knew church was where you had to go to learn about God and I was desperately curious about God so I kept going and it eventually became a condition for my mom’s boyfriend that I attend church - as quietly and invisibly as possible, I think he thought that it would heal my bold and impertinent ways, little did he know I was the first wave of millennials and I was born to a different generation.

It was Easter of 1999 when I finally came to believe that Jesus was the Son of God. Yes, I had always been interested and curious about God, but Jesus had remained a mystery to me. I was told from the TV specials that he was born at Christmas, I was told he died on the cross, but the rest of it remained murky. Why did we care about him being born, why did he die for me on the cross?

After a year and a half of teaching, I finally understood that He was the Son of God and He died on the cross for me because He could, and that mattered because He didn’t have too. I was standing next to my mom and it was during worship, and as we were singing the words to the hymn it all the sudden made sense and the knots were at last untangled. Peace came over me and I knew for the first time that I truly believed Jesus was who He said He was, or at least who the preacher told me He said He was - I still wasn’t allowed to read the bible by myself and I was too scared of it to disobey.

 

 

Read more: My Testimony - Part 2

My Testimony - Part 1

Setting the Scene

My Home Life - The Foundation

I’ll talk about the spiritual aspect of my home life growing up in just a minute, but I thought I should probably start with a fly over of my family life. My dad worked the night shift as a Sysco Foods driver, a job he started shortly after I was born. He worked well over 40 hours a week and was frequently tired and worn out when he got home. My mom has some mental illness and life with her was very unpredictable. Beyond the mood swings with her, there was verbal abuse and gaslighting that occurred behind closed doors.

My parents were an explosive combination and their disagreements excalated very quickly. I don’t want to call them out on specifics here, I’ll just leave it with this - it was a tense house to grow up in and I spent a large amount of time hiding behind the couch. While I hid from them and their crazy world I always felt like there was someone sitting there with me. I knew I was not alone, and it was probably this knowledge more than anything else that founded my belief in a god in a home where spirituality wasn’t a priority.

For the first 7 years of my life, I had an awareness of Christianity only through the 80’s American culture which I lived in. Each year there were TV specials that came out around Christmas and Easter that gave some general idea of what the holidays were about, though Santa was my first thought at Christmas and not Jesus.

Through my parents’ divorce, my mom moved into some sort of angel worshipping and had angels placed all around that house and pins that I wore on my shirt. She would speak to the figurines and ask them for protection and talk with them on occasion like they had life in them. My sister fell in with a rebellious crowd at school and someone made a remark about the devil in her yearbook and I remember my mom being over the top angry. I first learned about exorcism from this event and not the movie. My mom was convinced that my sister had fallen in with devil worshippers or at least said so dramatically in her arguments with my sister.

There were two bibles in the back corner of my mom’s closet. I frequently came upon them as they resided right next to my mom’s old cowboy boots which I dearly loved and frequently snuck in to wear around when I thought no one was paying attention. They were old and beat up and there was a book labeled “Old testament” and one labeled “new testament”. On occasion, I tried to read them as a very new reader but they were incredibly difficult and were King James Version so even the words I could make out it was all way over my head.

I very distinctly remember standing next to our old Lazy Boy recliner one day when I was only about 4 years old. My parents were having a deep conversation about my uncle and they were both very distraught. I don’t remember what they were saying, I only assume they were talking about my uncle based on the events that followed. My dad left the room when they were done talking and my mom turned to see me standing there. She paused for a moment, I could tell she was torn between anger that I had been there and wanting to scoop me up and hold me close.

She settled on scooping me up. She came down and knelt before me giving me a big hug and when she pulled away she had tears in her eyes and she said to me “We need to pray for your uncle. He and Aunt are getting a divorce.”

I wasn’t sure what she was talking about but she was so serious and insistent with tears in her eyes. I nodded my agreement then hesitantly asking “How do I pray?”
“Nothing to it.” She said and then informed me I need only say “dear God” then ask for what I want and at the end toss in an amen. We said a very simple prayer together “Dear God be with Uncle and help him out, amen.” and that was that.

Being the ever compliant child that I was I took this task very seriously and whenever I found nothing to do I would repeat that prayer with very little variance. Honestly, I probably said it 8 times a day. Then one day I was watching the Andy Griffith show and there was an episode when Opie’s aunt tells him to say his prayers. From watching this episode a few others that followed I gathered that you were supposed to say your prayers before bed and you should be kneeling with your hands in the proper position. I also learned you should bless your family members at the end of your prayer before you say amen. In this form, my prayers changed. “Dear God, Help my uncle out and give him comfort. God bless mom, God bless dad, God bless my sister. Amen.”

A few years later while walking through a craft fair with my mom at the local Catholic church I came across a sign that intrigued me; it read “when I count my blessings I count you twice.” I was very curious about this. Were blessings at the end of my prayers supposed to be counting something? Were they for my benefit or the benefit of those I was blessing?
As my mom and aunt moved forward to the next booth I quickly whispered to the woman “What does that mean? Why would you count someone twice in your blessings?” She smiled at me and said, “Your blessings are all the things you are thankful for, and if you count someone twice you are extra thankful for them.” I quickly caught up with my mom and aunt and contemplated this new information.

It made a difference in my little heart. Once I had digested this information my prayers changed remarkably. They were no longer quick things I said before bed, they took hours! I always had a hard time falling asleep so this new ritual really helped me out, my own form of counting sheep I suppose. I would make my request for the prayer then I would go through a list of EVERYTHING I was thankful for. “God bless my penguin stuffed animal, God bless my pillow, God bless my bedroom, etc.” Then when I got to the people I loved I would go through this process twice.

I am very serious it took about 2 hours to complete each night, if not more. I would frequently fall asleep before I could finish and then I’d be so upset the next day that my pray the previous night had not been heard because I had forgotten the “sign off” with an amen. So I developed a new habit to counteract this, when I started to feel a little sleepy I would say “and God I’m going to say amen now even though I’m not done in case I fall asleep.” Remember I was a child no more than 6 by the time these habits were formed and I had little to NO adult guidance on any of this.

For some years our next-door neighbors were Christians who attended a large church in our home town. They had daughters that were around my age. When they first moved in we were instant friends, however, my older sister had a nightmare one night about the mother. My mom was convinced that my sister’s nightmare was a sign from the angels that this woman was demon-possessed and evil and I was no longer allowed to play directly with them anymore.

Being the persistent kid that I was I always found a way around this, one was to climb the fence between our yards and chat with them from there, but my mom often noticed that and would yell at me not to be “the little pest on the fence”. I discovered a knothole in one of the wood boards which soon served as my means of conversing with the girls.

Eventually, being convinced that the family was somehow evil, my mom made it so uncomfortable for the family to live next to us that they moved, and so went my only source of information. Again I was relegated to TV specials on holidays to gain information about this God that I wanted so desperately to know about.

In this manner, I continued on until I was 12, and then everything changed. That is the background for me to begin my story. Come back next Thursday and I’ll dive into the next part of my story.

Read more: My Testimony - Part 1

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