Rebel Heart

Wednesday, 14 November 2007

Dare to believe

The small church was crowded. All around me people worshiped a god that I didn’t believe existed. Why was I there? My neighbor asked me to come. To be honest, I thought they would leave me alone if I did.

I wasn’t sure what to expect. I had attended services with my family a few times, but it was more of a ritual or a way to celebrate holidays. What I hadn’t anticipated was the wetness pressed against my eyelids as I clenched them shut.

My motto? Never let them see you cry. I wasn’t about to break down in front of people I didn’t know. I wasn’t crying because I felt the presence of God or that I sensed his love for me. I fought tears because I was mad, so angry that I shook inside. How dare the preacher stand there and talk about the love of God. It was easy for him and people like him to spout off about a God who existed, who had a purpose for every person. Well, maybe their God had taken a personal interest in them but he didn’t live at my house.

The mother I am about to share with you is the not the mom I have now. You see, she had an encounter with God, and he brought her out of the darkness of emotional pain and healed her. In order to share my story, I have to share a little bit of hers as well.

My mom left home at 16 years old, pregnant and newly married to a boy who thought he was a man. She lost her first baby to cystic fibrosis when the toddler was less than two years old. She had her second child at 18 and left her husband at the age of 21. He came to visit her one night and forced her to have sex. She discovered two weeks later she was pregnant.

I was that baby.

Mom married a good man who loved her and the two little kids that came as a package deal. But in spite of this turn of events, my mom was fragile. Like stained glass, she was pretty on the outside, but the broken pieces of her life created the portrait.

Growing up, I never knew what to expect. Would it be the mom who brought home suckers to surprise us, or the woman who spouted horrific things as she ran out the door and threatened to kill herself? There was physical abuse and apologies. There were humiliating punishments, harsh words, and tearful requests for forgiveness.

Please don’t get me wrong. It wasn’t always bad in my home, but when it was it was loud and chaotic and frightening. I feared one day that my mom would pull the trigger or hurt herself. I hated the words that came out of her mouth when she was angry.

One day my mom chased me through the house, brandishing an umbrella as she screamed at me. I ran out the door and into the rain. I was wearing a T-shirt and jeans and no shoes. The cold rain pelted me as I ran down Latimer Street. I pushed through the wetness, pumping my arms as I ran as fast as I could. Finally I stopped, bending down to catch my breath as my tears meshed with the raindrops. I slowly turned around and walked home, sat on the curb, and wept until my throat closed.

I was stuck. I couldn’t run away. I had no money, no place to go. I was 13 years old. Where could I go?

I started smoking at the bus stop, pushing boundaries with my teachers, and drinking with my best friend. My attempts to be tough must have appeared hilarious to others. I was skinny to a fault and looked younger than my age. Being tough didn’t come natural. My heart was gentle and I hated conflict and fighting, yet every single time I let my guard down someone hurt me.

Angry words all sharp and pointy, a knife in my soul.

That’s when the hardness crept in. Never let them see you cry. Never give them a chance to know you care.

One day it all came to a head. My mom pulled us around her in her bedroom. She put a gun to her head and threatened to shoot herself. I was scared, but not because I thought she would die, but because under my breath I whispered, “just do it”.

Who was this person I was becoming?

Two years later I stood in the little church. The pastor sang, strumming on the guitar as people knelt at the altar. “He loves you,” he said. “He has a plan for your life.”

Yeah, right. I pointed my chin at the sky, my eyes closed, and I challenged this God of which he spoke. “If you are real,” I whispered, “and I don’t believe you are, but if you exist and you know me and you love me like he says, I need to know.”

I expected nothing, yet I received everything as a tender touch reached past my hardened heart. I’ve had trouble explaining this moment to people over the years. “Did you see God?” No. “Did you feel God’s presence?” Yes, but so subtle and deep inside of me, touching areas that I had closed long ago to anybody, that I knew it was God.

Tears broke and streamed down my cheeks and for the first time in a long time I wept. I felt as if He had wrapped me in a warm blanket, enclosing me in his love. I stumbled from the church. I ran home and told my mom that I had just got “saved”, though I really didn’t understand what had occurred.

Did everything magically change? No. My circumstances were still the same, but everything was different on the inside of me.

I made mistakes, huge blunders as I tried to learn what it meant to follow Jesus as my Savior. I wasn’t perfect, but I understood his love. I knew I wanted to know more. The people of that little church ministered to me in ways they will never understand. There were times I wept at the altar and then went home to chaos. There were times I fell in my walk with Christ and their gentle encouragement helped me to keep going.

It is amazing what can happen when God restores a broken life. It can be beautiful like the portrait that my mom is now, the shattered pieces of her life assembled together in a beautiful picture of God’s mercy.

Today I am a mom, an author, a speaker, and a wife. I have the opportunity to minister to teens and women across the world, sharing the story of my life and the beauty of purpose and the fact that God loved us from the beginning. My mother and father were saved when I was in my junior year of high school.

I found a note from my dad under my pillow one day. I still carry it with me, the tattered pieces a reminder of what God has done. My quiet father, who very rarely shared the depth of his emotions, said in that letter, “I have watched you and I see that you have something that is of great worth, a treasure. I know that it is real and I admire you for your faith and your love for God.”

We have never spoken of that letter, but it came at a time when I prayed for a sign. “God, show me that you hear my prayers. Heal my family. Let me know that you are listening.” The folded piece of paper under my pillow was heaven sent and priceless.

For years my mom and I have been best of friends. She is compassionate, loving, and whole, and the memories of our past are forgiven and forgotten.

Today I am still running after the same God that touched my life when I was 15. I always tell my audiences that one day I’ll be an old woman running after God with my walker. You see, he’s done a million things for me. He’s been with me through difficult times, but my love for him will always be wrapped around that first moment when he reached down to an angry, hurting, skinny 15-year old teenager and silently whispered that he loved me.

I still can’t help but whisper back, “I love you too”.

- Suzanne Eller

Monday, 12 November 2007

Focus on the family

When I was 10 my parents got a divorce. Naturally my father told me about it because he was my favourite.

Honey, I know it's been kinda bad for you these past few days, and I don't wanna make it worse. But there's something I have to tell you. Honey, your mother and I got a divorce.

But daddy!

Well I know you don't want this but it has to be done, now your mother and I just don't get along like we used to... I'm already packed and my plane is leaving in half an hour.

But daddy, why do you have to leave?

Well honey your mother and I can't live together anymore!

I know that but why do you have to leave town?

Oh, well, um... I got someone waiting for me in New Jersey.

But daddy, will I ever see you again?

Oh, sure you will honey, we'll work something out.

But what? I mean, you'll be living in New Jersey and I'll be living here in Washington!

Well maybe your mother will agree to your spending two weeks in the summer with me and two weeks in the winter.

Why not more often?

Well I don't even think she'll agree to two weeks in the Summer and two weeks in the Winter, much less more.

Well it can't hurt to try!

I know honey but we'll have to work it out later. Now my plane leaves in twenty minutes and I've got to get to the airport. Now I'm going to go get my luggage and I want you to go to your room so you don't have to watch me. And no long goodbyes either!

Ok daddy. Goodbye. Don't forget to write me!

I won't. Now goodbye, go to your room.

Ok daddy... Daddy I don't want you to go.

I know honey but I have to.


Well, you wouldn't understand.

Yes I would!

No. You wouldn't.

Oh well, goodbye.

Goodbye, now go to your room and hurry up.


Well... I guess that's the way life goes sometimes.

- Vickie Crawshaw (14)

A child arrived just the other day
He came to the world in the usual way
But there were planes to catch, and bills to pay
He learned to walk while I was away
And he was talking before I knew it, and as he grew
He'd say, I'm gonna be like you, dad
You know I'm gonna be like you

And the cat's in the cradle and the silver spoon
Little boy blue and the man in the moon
When you coming home, dad?
I don't know when
But we'll get together then
You know we'll have a good time then

My son turned ten just the other day
He said, thanks for the ball, dad, come on let's play
Can you teach me to throw?
I said, not today I got a lot to do
He said, that's OK
And he walked away, but his smile never dimmed
Said, I'm gonna be like him, yeah
You know I'm gonna be like him

And the cat's in the cradle and the silver spoon
Little boy blue and the man in the moon
When you coming home, dad?
I don't know when
But we'll get together then
You know we'll have a good time then

Well, he came from college just the other day
So much like a man I just had to say
Son, I'm proud of you. Can you sit for a while?
He shook his head, and he said with a smile
What I'd really like, dad, is to borrow the car keys
See you later. Can I have them please?

And the cat's in the cradle and the silver spoon
Little boy blue and the man in the moon
When you coming home, son?
I don't know when
But we'll get together then, dad
You know we'll have a good time then

I've long since retired and my son's moved away
I called him up just the other day
I said, I'd like to see you if you don't mind
He said, I'd love to, dad, if I could find the time
You see, my new job's a hassle, and the kid's got the flu
But it's sure nice talking to you, dad
It's been sure nice talking to you
And as I hung up the phone, it occurred to me
He'd grown up just like me
My boy was just like me

And the cat's in the cradle and the silver spoon
Little boy blue and the man in the moon
When you coming home, son?
I don't know when
But we'll get together then, dad
You know we'll have a good time then

- Harry Chapin

Always remember: the time to love is short.

The Hospital was unusually quiet that bleak January evening, quiet and still like the air before a storm. I glanced at the clock in the nurses' station. It was nine o'clock. I threw a stethoscope around my neck and headed for Room 712.

As I entered the room, Mr. Mills looked up eagerly, but dropped his eyes when he saw it was only me, his nurse. I pressed the stethoscope to his chest and listened. Strong, slow, even beating. There seemed little indication he had suffered a slight heart attack a few hours earlier.

He looked up, tears filling his eyes. I touched his hand, waiting. "Would you call my daughter?" he asked at last. "You see, I live alone and she is the only family I have." His respiration suddenly speeded up.

I increased his oxygen supply. "Of course, I'll call her," I said.

He gripped the sheets and pulled himself forward, his face tense with urgency. "Will you call her right away, as soon as you can?" He was breathing fast, too fast.

"I'll call her the very first thing," I said, patting his shoulder. "Now you get some rest."

He closed his eyes. Reluctant to leave, I moved through the shadowy silence to the window. The panes were cold. Below, a foggy mist curled through the hospital parking lot. Snow clouds quilted the night sky.

"Nurse," he called, "could you get me a pencil and paper?"

I dug a scrap of yellow paper and a pen from my pocket and set them on the bedside table.

"Thank you," he said.

I smiled at him and left.

Mr. Mills's daughter was listed on his chart as the next of kin. I got her number from Information.

"Miss Janie Mills, this is Sue Kidd, a nurse at the hospital. I'm calling about your father. He was admitted tonight with a heart attack and..."

"No!" she screamed into the phone, startling me. "He's not dying, is he?" It was more a plea than a question.

"His condition is stable at the moment," I said, trying to sound convincing.

"You must not let him die!" she said. Her voice was so compelling that my hand trembled on the phone.

"He is getting the very best care."

"But you don't understand," she pleaded, "Dad and I had a terrible argument almost a year ago. I... I haven't seen him since. All these months I've wanted to go to him for forgiveness. The last thing I said to him was, 'I hate you.'"

Her voice cracked and I heard her heave great agonizing sobs. I listened, tears burning my eyes. A father and a daughter, so lost to each other. Then I was thinking of my own father, many miles away. It had been so long since I said "I love you."

As Janie struggled to control her tears, I breathed a prayer: Please, God, let this daughter find forgiveness.

"I'm coming. Now! I'll be there in 30 minutes," she said, and hung up.

I tried to busy myself with a stack of charts on the desk, but I couldn't concentrate. Room 712. I felt I had to get back to 712! I hurried down the hall nearly in a run.

Mr. Mills lay unmoving. I reached for his pulse¡ª There was none.

"Code 99. Room 712. Code 99. Room 712." The alert was shooting through the hospital seconds after the switchboard operator was notified.

Mr. Mills had had a cardiac arrest. I leveled the bed and bent over his mouth, breathing air into his lungs. I positioned my hands over his chest and compressed. One, two, three. At 15, I moved back to his mouth and breathed as deeply as I could. Where was help? Again I compressed and breathed. Compressed and breathed.

Oh, God, I prayed, his daughter is coming. Don't let it end this way.

The door burst open. Doctors and nurses pushed emergency equipment into the room. A doctor took over the manual compression of the heart, A tube was inserted through the patient's mouth as an airway. Nurses plunged syringes of medicine into the intravenous tubing.

I watched the heart monitor, Nothing. Not a beat. "Stand back," cried a doctor. I handed him the paddles for the electric shock to the heart. He placed them on Mr. Mills's chest. Over and over we tried. But nothing. No response.

A nurse turned off the oxygen. The gurgling stopped. One by one they left, grim and silent. I stood by his bed, stunned. Wind rattled the window, pelting the panes with snow. How could I face his daughter?

When I left the room, I saw her. A doctor who had been inside 712 only moments before stood talking to her, gripping her elbow. Then he moved on, leaving Janie slumped against the wall. Such pathetic hurt in her face. Such wounded eyes.

I took her hand and led her into the nurses' lounge. We sat, neither of us saying a word, She stared straight ahead, glass-faced, breakable-looking.

"Janie, I'm sorry," I said. It was pitifully inadequate.

"I never hated him, you know, I loved him," she said. She whirled toward me. "I want to see him."

My first thought was, Why put yourself through more pain? But I got up and wrapped my arm around her. We walked slowly down the corridor to 712. She pushed open the door, went to the bed and buried her face in the sheets.

I tried not to look at this sad goodbye. I backed into the bed table and, as I did, my hand fell upon a scrap of yellow paper. I picked it up. I read:

My dearest Janie,

I forgive you.
I pray you will also forgive me.
I know that you love me.
I love you, too.

- Daddy

The note was shaking in my hands as I thrust it toward Janie. She read it once. Then twice. Peace began to glisten in her eyes. She hugged the scrap of paper to her breast.

"Thank you, God," I whispered, looking up at the window. A few crystal stars blinked through the blackness. A snowflake hit the window and melted away, gone forever. Thank you, God, that relationships, sometimes fragile as snowflakes, can be mended together again... But there is not a moment to spare.

I tiptoed from the room and hurried to the telephone. I would call my father. I would say, "I love you."

- Sue Kidd

Saturday, 10 November 2007


Dress down your pretty faith, give me something real
Leave out the Thee and Thou and speak to me now
Speak to my pain and confusion
Speak through my fears and my pride
Speak to the part of me that knows I'm something deep down inside

I know that I'm not perfect, but compare me to most
In a world of hurt in a world of anger I think I'm holding my own
And I know that you've said there is more to life
No I am not satisfied
But there are mornings I wake up and I’m just thankful to be alive

I've known for quite a while that I am not whole
I've remembered the body and the mind, but dissected the soul
Now something inside is awakening
Like a dream I once had and forgot
And it's something I'm scared of and something I don't want to stop

- Sara Groves