My family was just the three of us; mom, dad, and myself. We lived in a mid sized house in Oregon on a street with lots of neighborhood kids and the elementary school within walking distance. It was gray with blue trim and had a double car garage. We had a beautiful garden in the yard with flowers of all colors. We also had strawberries, tomatoes, carrots, and peppers. Mom loved to work in the garden. There was a large deck out the back door and a swing set that dad built in the grass. It had monkey bars I’d hang upside down on and swings to launch me high in the air.
We had a large kitchen that always smelled of coffee in the morning. Mom always had a cup. The smell of baked goods filled the house often. My mom would bake pies and let me have my own teeny pie plate for my own pie. She even let me roll out the dough. It made me feel special. My mom and I baked sugar cookies every year for Christmas. I stood on a large yellow ottoman so that I could reach the counter-top to cut out trees and Santas and other Christmas shapes with metal and plastic cookie cutters. The decorating was my favorite. It was a big mess and it was okay, plus, I got to eat what broke. We decorated with various colored tubes and I got to choose the shape of the tip I squeezed the frosting through. Then we put the candies on. We had red-hots, rainbow sprinkles, colored sugar, and silver balls, even chocolate sprinkles; all the ingredients for a good time. However, as in most families, not every day was a good time.
Dad was the mood setter. If he wasn’t happy, no one was. I was 5 when mom and dad had a nasty fight in the kitchen. It was loud and dad was pushy. Dad was really mad. I could see from the hall. His face was red and his eyebrows pushed his forehead into wrinkles. My mom had tears and kept moving away from him. I was frightened and told them to stop it. My stomach was topsy-turvey, and my heart was racing. Dad turned on me, yelled a few choice words, and threw something at me. I don’t recall what it was, but I do recall Mom didn’t say anything. I ran back to my room, shut the door, and sat against it, blocking anyone from entering and I cried. From this moment on, Dad became someone I feared. He got mad at me a lot.
I fell out of bed one night and began to cry. Dad and mom came to see what happened. They asked if I would be okay and put me back in bed. Then they went back to bed, but I continued to cry. Soon Dad came back and said to stop crying, but I didn’t. He yelled at me to stop or he would spank me; still I couldn’t. Finally, he came and spanked me. The following morning, he tried to hug me, but it hurt. It was later discovered, my collarbone had broken, but more than that, something deeper in me had broken. I grew scared to speak and scared to cry.
My dad accepted Jesus when I was 6. He began to take my mom and I to church every Sunday. I witnessed dad reading the Bible everyday. It was odd for dad to read, he didn’t do much reading before. Mom and dad spent time discussing the Bible. He couldn’t make her believe. She wouldn’t until I was a teenager. Dad told me about Jesus. I believed what he said but didn’t see how Jesus could love me. He gave me a picture Bible. I noticed that my parents toned down their arguments with me around or they just had them when I wasn’t around. Dad didn’t yell at mom as much. His anger seemed to be turned on me.
Down the hall from the Kitchen were three bedrooms, my bedroom was the first one on the left. It had dark blue wall paper with rainbows all over it. I loved rainbows. My bed was covered with a quilt that grandma (dad’s mom) made for me. It had various patterns and shapes in all the primary colors. I had big black plastic shelves for all my books and toys. My desk, head board, and dresser were painted a bright yellow. The desk chair spun around and was upholstered in grey fabric. I loved to write and color at my desk. It became an outlet for emotions I could not speak because I was scared. Dad may have had a bad day, he may not want to listen, he may be mad at me. He might yell, call me names, or throw something at me. I might loose his love. I felt that I wasn’t good enough, not loved for who I was. Feelings of rejection and fear were common and often.
Mom used to read books to me every night. It helped me relax and get ready to sleep. She would read my bible to me sometimes. I thought the creation story was amazing. How God just spoke and there it was. It was always good. I used to wish I could speak and make good things happen. She also read books like “Curious George” and “Ramona”. I loved both. Each character able to explore and get into trouble often, yet somehow it all worked out. They had courage, they were loved, and were accepted; three things I wanted a whole bunch. Time with mom was important to me because she worked full time, so this was my special time with her.
I had to repeat the first grade. They said in the meeting that I was developmentally behind and not performing as well as they thought I should be. I remember hearing that I used the stairs with both feet instead of alternating feet. My second year of first grade, they figured out that I couldn’t see and needed glasses. At the time, I don’t remember feeling bad about it, but as time went on and friends realized I had been held back, it caused me to feel inadequate, stupid, and angry. I spent much of elementary school trying to blend in with the wall and not be noticed.
We had a big white cat named Slugo. Slugo used to sleep on my lap or sometimes in the bathroom sink. He’d guard the back yard, jumping out from under the deck at anyone who entered. Sometimes He would lay with me while I colored and he’d sit with me when I was sick. Then one day, Slugo peed in the house. Dad got really mad at Slugo. Dad screamed at him to go play on the freeway and threw him out. Slugo never came back. I was sad and mad. Mad at dad for yelling at my friend and mad at Slugo for leaving. I couldn’t say anything to Dad. After all, look what he did with the cat! Slugo ran away cause dad got mad, but I couldn’t.
In third grade I began attending a church program called Awanas. We played games like three legged races, we memorized Bible verses like John 3:16, and we had learning time about various Bible stories like David and Goliath. It was fun there, but I still didn’t understand. Third grade is one of the few times I remember feeling like dad was really proud of me. He just gushed over my report card at dinner one evening; straight As and Bs! He thought I was so smart. However, this feeling faded quickly. In fourth grade, my first C appeared on a report card. It was in math. My dad looked like he was going to explode, red face and all. He burst through the front door from the mail box as if he were a mad bull. We practiced long division for endless hours after this. I know it well now, but with every mistake, there was frustration and anger. It was torture.
Also, in the fourth grade, I began playing the piano. Music could take me anywhere I wanted to go. My feelings could come out in my music. I could be sad or mad or happy or feel anything. I still love to play. The piano sat in our living room next to a big window, a great spot to let your thoughts be elsewhere. After a few years of different piano teachers, I began taking lessons from a lady at church. I remember being captivated by the way she played. I would sit in the front row at church just watching her. It seemed the music came alive. She gave lessons in her home. I always left piano lessons feeling better than when I arrived. She rarely knew the circumstance, yet always had a remedy; just a few words; a song; or merely instilling the knowledge that she believed that I could had a lasting impression.
In middle school, I was challenged by my dad to get good grades. If I did, the reward would be new wallpaper and oak furniture in my room. This challenge was accomplished with partial success. Dad’s standards were not 100% met, although he gave in on parts as I recall. However, there was no feeling of satisfaction in having earned this or in making him proud. I felt as if he did it out of need to update the room. Never-the-less, my room was now covered in pale yellow wallpaper with little pink flowers all over it. I had a white framed day bed, the four balls on the corners with pink flowers. Oak shelving lined one wall and and an oak desk sat facing the window with a grey upholstered desk chair that spun around. The quilt grandma made was replaced with a quilt in pastel colors. I liked the room, it felt more grown up. Though, I did miss grandma’s quilt.
Those years of middle school were filled with negative feelings, both at home and at school. I was relentlessly bullied at school. For example, I was pushed into lockers, called names, poked, spat on, and tripped. Kids from my neighborhood would spit on the button at the crosswalk while walking home so I would put my hand in it. I was not good enough for my peers and I continued to feel that I could not measure up to expectations at home. Feelings of rejection were intense.
In eighth grade, my family and one of my friends took a trip during school to Mexico. I was supposed to do homework during the trip so that I would remain caught up, but I didn’t do it at all. This resulted in failing grades. Dad was angry, and rightfully so, but the consequences were almost more than I could bear. He grounded me from everything, including piano, for a whole month. Losing the piano was just about the worst thing ever. I had little release for feelings and emotions. They all got stuffed deep inside. This was the first and last time dad grounded me. It was during this time, dad began doing a Bible devotional with me each morning called Daily Bread. We also began to pray before meals and I began going to middle school youth group. People told me that my next step was baptism. Without completely understanding how Jesus could love me, I got baptized. It was the “next supposed to”. It made dad happy.
In high school, yet another challenge was given to me. Get a B average and we’ll take you to Disneyland. Grades did not come in the mail as they were supposed to and after calling the school, it was discovered that I was missing a book. It was a long walk to the school to return it, as I was excited to receive my grades. So with grades in hand, I rushed home to show my parents! All A’s and B’s except for the one C in P.E. Dad got quite mad about that C. Mom also seemed pretty disappointed. Somehow, the good just didn’t seem to matter as the one deficiency became the main focus. In the end, Disneyland felt more like their duty to fulfill a promise than my reward for doing well. Any motivation in me to excel disappeared and I just got by.
During my high school years, I bought a “build it yourself” clock for my mom for Mother’s Day. I planned to put it together and make it pretty for her, but I needed a little help so I went to Dad for assistance. Dad said that Mom had enough clocks and that it was a silly gift, but helped me anyway, while his reluctance was expressed through frustration and anger. Dad’s critique of my gift stung and added to my feelings that I had failed my mom and my dad.
Another area of struggle for me was my perception of Mom’s position during conflict with Dad. It seemed to me that Mom did not to come to my defense when Dad lost his temper. This caused me to think that she thought the behavior was okay or that she just didn’t care. However, just recently, I learned the truth about this. The fact is, Mom’s wisdom prevented her from “reacting” to Dad’s temper in the moment. She didn’t want to fuel the fire with more fire. She chose to wait for the calm. So unbeknownst to me at the time, it was after the smoke thinned that she spoke.
I have more respect for my mom today than ever and I am happy to share that Mom accepted Jesus when I was a teen. I didn’t know about this right away because she evidently wanted to have confidence in her God first but I noticed she began using the Bible to encourage me. She also began attending Bible studies and praying for others, both at home and publicly. Her way of handling burdens and stress went from depression to prayer. She read the Bible daily and frequently discussed what she learned. Mom was soft and subtle. It became part of her and how she lived.
My sophomore year in high school was an especially hard year. My grandma (Mom’s mom) passed away due to a stroke. I was extremely angry. Why would God take her from me? I saw it as punishment. My parents didn’t seem to understand, and meanwhile, the anger just kept growing until one day I simply exploded in a fit of yelling and tears! They now knew I was angry but didn’t know how to help. Unfortunately, that anger got stuffed back in and hung out inside me for a very long time. I was mad that she was gone and that God had taken her. I had no idea what to do with these feelings. We scattered her ashes in the ocean on her favorite beach in Newport. It was raining and there was a rainbow that day. That would have pleased her. Grandma was fun to be with. There were no worries at Grandma’s house. She loved her grandkids like nothing else and always made me feel like I was the most important thing to her. She was constantly singing, and smelled of roses. She always had a little something for us; coloring books and crayons, a new game, or an outing. She read to us and sang songs with us. Grandma liked to talk and always asked about the things we liked, what we were doing, and how we were feeling. I always thought it was so cool that she could play songs by ear on the piano, Amazing Grace being my favorite. Every morning Grandma needed her cup of coffee, then to “put on her face” as she would say. It would always make me giggle and so she called me Giggle Pot. Right before she died, Grandma gave me a beautiful afghan she had made for me. It was the last time I saw her healthy. She had actually tried to teach me how to croche during my time with her, but I had little interest. I regret that now. We ate favorites like spaghetti, homemade pizza, or my favorite dish by Grandma, beef stroganoff. She had a large deck and grassy area in which to play and a wonderful vegetable garden where we would pick lettuce, radishes, broccoli, tomatoes and cauliflower for our vegetable plate. We always had one with lunch and dinner, but we could pick off of it what we liked. Everything about being at Grandma’s house was good, so it was always hard to go home. There was anxiety in not knowing what had taken place in my absence. Was Dad in a good mood or would I go home to anger?
That same year, on my sixteenth birthday, my dog was put to sleep. I’m know it was unavoidable, but my parents had the appointment right before my party. Like wet jeans, the sadness was heavy and it stuck. Her name was Ruby. She was a mix of Lasa Apso and Terrier. She was black with a little white and had long hair that looked like a beard. When we let her hair grow, it would touch the floor. She had no fear and would even attack fire crackers while they were exploding. She loved me with no conditions and listened intently when I talked. Her floppy ears would perk up and she would look at me with a curious look. I confided in Ruby and she comforted me. She was always happy to see me. I walked her everyday and sometimes she would fall asleep while I rubbed her tummy. She was my friend, so losing her sent me into a state of continual sadness. I felt so alone. God must really be mad at me.
My grandpa (Dad’s dad) died my senior year of high school. I knew him, but not like Grandma. I didn’t really have a lot of feelings regarding his death. I missed him, but moved on quickly. I think Dad was hurt by this. He got very angry that I didn’t react the way he expected. I even failed at feeling! That caused a lot of guilt.
I lived in a lot of fear all through my time at home, and even after moving out. It was fear of failure and rejection. I never felt that I measured up. The slightest irritation seemed to send my dad into a rage. For example, something like spilled soda, imperfect coloring, a slightly wrinkled t-shirt, or an interruption would cause him to get very angry. I remember getting a more complex coloring book as a child. I had colored my first picture in it and was excited to show mom and dad. My coloring was not all the same direction, though I had remained in the lines. Dad was rather mad about this. He took the crayon and colored over my work to show me how it should have been done. Another time, I was laying on my bed reading and my room was a mess. Dad came in and told me that I was a pig and to clean up. I was already bullied extensively in school, so this was a punch that knocked the wind out of me. Any remains of my self image were flattened. I just felt like I wasn’t worth the dirt on the ground.
We moved after high school. I had an upstairs room with a walk in attic space. It was an older, craftsman style house. I had taken a liking to soda pop. I remember when I spilled some in the attic one day, quite by accident, and it leaked through the floor, causing a stain on the ceiling below. The ceiling remained in tact but dad exploded.
“How could you be so careless? That attic is a mess, clean it!”
I couldn’t live up to his expectations. It was never known when or what would set him off. If I were not perfect I would not be loved. My inability to be perfect was coped with by hiding. Communication stopped, many lies were told. I would do and say anything to avoid his rage to the point of trying to end my life several times. As I began to drive and got out of school, I could just take off and not come back. I did, numerous times, and I tried to die. One time, I had jumped in the Willamette River and tried to drown myself, but obviously survived my attempt. I felt like such a failure. I don’t recall the specifics and I don’t recall how dad found out, but what I do remember is how dad responded. It was the best “dad talk” in my life to that point. It’s in the top 10 today. He did not yell or get mad. He wanted to know my thoughts and feelings. He wanted to get me some help. He listened to me. I felt understood, accepted, and loved.
I began to see a counselor, and now dear friend, after the first time I ran away. This was my first introduction to what God’s love really was and how it felt. I never forgot that. She helped me understand who God said I am; a new creation; loved by the King of kings. She also helped me with a note for my dad regarding my feelings about his temper. That note didn’t go over so well with Dad. He was angry that I told. Dad always said “Family issues stay in the family.” But now, the cat was out of the bag, and he did not like it. We fought and I left for a church event in tears, but ultimately, Dad began trying to change.
After moving out, Dad was still very involved in my life. I rented his house, discounted of course. He was always checking up on me. I was at his house for dinner every Sunday. I had just been dumped because I was a liar. I lost my job and didn’t tell anyone, I had failed. I spent money to make myself feel better and dug a deep hole. I couldn’t go to dad, so I ran to the last place I felt the love I thought I was looking for. I began dating a boy again that dad had venomously expressed his disapproval of, even forbidding it a few years prior. I felt accepted, I felt loved by this boy. He pointed out the good in me. I hid this relationship because I knew dad’s feelings. I still had intense fear, if I was not dad’s perfect child, he would not love me anymore. I eloped and married the boy in 2001, He is my husband today.
After marriage, I did not attend church. God was not a part of my life at all. Deep in sin, lying was common place, It had become habit. I ran away and tried to die several times here too as the same feelings came from my lies. I was an emotional cheater, I stole, severely severing any trust in my marriage. After moving to Las Vegas with my husband and two children in 2012, I began feeling a push to begin attending a church close to our house. Later, in 2013, I took my first steps into this church. It became a huge catapult in my journey to learn about who God is and about His love for me.
I’ve believed for a long time that Jesus died to pay the penalty for sins and then rose again so we could be forgiven. He is God after all. Until my mid 30s, I struggled with the idea that He loved me and died for me. I thought God was mad at me, that I had done too many wrongs. I saw God much like I saw my dad. He was mad at me and could not love me because I could not live up to His expectations. I was not perfect. Dad expected perfection in order to be loved, and I thought God must expect it too. I did not understand who God is. Why would God love me? I justified lying with fear for most of my life. I could not stop the fear or the lies on my own. Somehow it protected me. If I lied, I did not have to admit that I am not perfect. I did not have to face the consequences at that moment for my imperfection. Lying is wrong, no matter the reason. Admitting mistakes is better than faking perfection. I would lie to cover a failure. Then get caught in the lie, creating more fear of rejection and losing love. It was only realizing that God loves me no matter what that would break this circle. I still pay the consequences for lies that I told, and rightfully so, but I am forgiven by God.
I could not live up to dad’s expectations. Dad needed me to be perfect to love me. I felt like God could not love me either. He was mad at me just like dad was. I am not lovable. I don’t deserve His love. I am not good enough. I know right and do wrong. Jeremiah 17:9 says
“The heart is deceitful and desperately wicked. Who can know it?”
I felt that I was always in the wrong with dad and therefore, God. I also knew that my way of coping was sin. This intensified the feeling that He couldn’t love me and neither could God. Humans are corrupted by sin, not even realizing to what extent it has stained us. Romans 3:10-12 tells us of the natural person.
“There is none righteous, no, not one; There is none who understands; There is none who seeks after God. They all have turned aside; They have together become unprofitable; There is none who does good, no, not one.”
How then, is it possible for a Holy, righteous and perfect God to love us Humans? To understand this, we must understand something of the nature and character of God.
A few years ago, I went through a Bible study with a dear friend. In that study I learned of who God is, about God’s character. It is in this that I realized, God loves me. God’s love is not based on whether or not we deserve it as it seemed dad’s love was. It is who God is. God is not like dad. The fear and feelings of anger and rejection that I had regarding God dissipated.
Part of God’s Character is Love. 1st John 4:8 and 16 tell us that “God is love.” God doesn’t just love; He IS love. His nature and essence are love. Love is all through His very being and seeps deeply into all His other attributes, even His wrath and anger. He is angry with sin, but forgives His children. Because God’s nature is love, He must demonstrate love, just as He must demonstrate all His other attributes because doing this glorifies Him. He deserves all glory, Glorifying God is the best of all things we as Humans can do.
Since it is God’s nature to love, He demonstrates His love by giving it generously to people who don’t deserve it, people who are rebelling against Him. God’s love is not your mushy, sentimental, romantic feeling. It is agape love, the love of self-sacrifice. He demonstrates this sacrificial love by sending His son to the cross to pay the penalty for our sin. (1 john 4:10) By drawing us to Himself(John 6:44), By forgiving us of our sin, and by sending His Holy Spirit to dwell in us, therefore enabling us to love as He loves. He did this though we don’t deserve it.
“But God demonstrates His own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” (Romans 5:8)
Dad and I continue to grow in our relationship as each of us grow in the Lord. Our relationship gets better everyday. I talk to and see my dad often. God has His hand in it. I know my dad loves me, and I love him.
God’s love is personal. He knows us as individuals and loves us personally. His love doesn’t have a beginning or an end. It never fails or gives up. God loves us because of who He is, not because of what we do or don’t do or because we somehow deserve it.
I wrote this story to answer a question so many, including me, wonder for long periods of time, sometimes even a lifetime. Does God really love me and why? The answer is yes, because it is who He is. It is a need I had for much of my life thus far, to know I am loved just the way I am. So many stories end with a hope that fades away. God loves us and He alone offers eternal hope. Take a good look at who God is. He loves you so much