Friday, October 29, 2010

The Little Girl Within -- Things Can Be Unbroken

I have a quote scribbled on a sticky note on my desk, “She who suffers most has most to give.”  How true this is!  Today, my sweet friend Morgan shares a short page of her story that reads like a novel of heartbreak and hope, and what she is learning of the Lord.  She has a lot to give …
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I have no memory of the little girl I once was—she grew up far too fast to have made any lasting impact on my memory.  I don’t blame her.  She needed to be strong; she needed to be tough; she needed to be protected and it was clear early on that no one was going to do it if she didn’t. 

I grew up in a chaotic and unpredictable household.  My dad was a military man who was either absent or full of rage. We preferred him to be absent, for when he was present he cursed at us, yelled at us and called us names.

My mom was an alcoholic who loved to party and that always seemed to get my dad going.  When they went out for drinks, our time at home alone was like being in the eye of the storm -- it was very quiet. As we waited and watched for their return, we dreaded the inevitable outcome of his anger and abuse.

 I wouldn’t dare close my eyes because I knew that when I heard the key hit the door the yelling would begin, intermingled with the sound of things breaking and crashing then the sound of my mom’s voice pleading for my father to “STOP.”

My sister and I would try to intervene, but we were just little girls.

He never stopped.  The brokenness continued on and on – breaking things, breaking people, breaking hearts and shattering hope. Poverty, violence and neglect were part of our every day.

My biggest questions when I was a child were these —“Does anyone care about me at all? Does God even care? Or does He look on from above casually testing me to see how much I could handle?” 

Later in college when I learned of Christ, I began to wonder where He had been there all those times.  I echoed Martha and Mary’s cries to Jesus—“Lord, if you had only been here…”  It wasn’t until several years later that I learned Who that Jesus is —He is the One Who weeps with me.  He cares deeply about my grief and pain and enters into it with me -- to the point of tears. 

Somewhere in the process of healing, I came across the little girl within me – the girl I once knew.  She was shattered and swept under the rug, but as it turns out things can be unbroken – I am being unbroken.

I found the Answer to my questions and He is the Lover of my soul, my Refuge and Stronghold, mighty to save and rejoicing over me with singing – my Jesus. 

My little girl within has only been here a short time, but she feels safe to come around now from time to time because she knows that she is unfailingly loved by the God Who holds all things together.

The River -- by Morgan Lueck

I have learned that there are dead things all around
And I say it cuz I know that’s what I’ve found
And as I lift up both my eyes I see that you’ve been searching too
Seems like everything is broken

But I’ve also met a river deep and wide
And just over it is end to all our plight
And through these rushing waters come struggle’s deep delight
Oh this river isn’t broken

And I get weary from all the things that I have done
Cuz in the end it seems the broken things have won
But the end is not the end, my hope is blazing like the sun
Turns out things can be unbroken

I look forward to the autumn and the spring
I love the color and the life that they both bring
This river rages through four seasons, winter’s chill and summer’s heat
Oh that I were brave just like that river
That I were strong just like that river
Oh that I could love just like that river

So won’t you come with me to seek this river’s banks
Oh, there lies the end to all our pains and aches
And we will bravely cross that river, then on dry land we will say
Turns out things can be unbroken
Oh that we can be unbroken
This river is not broken…

Morgan Lueck is a singer and songwriter in Nashville, Tennessee.  She is pursuing her masters in Marriage and Family Therapy.   You can find a selection of her songs and poems on her blog Born To a Living Hope.

This series will be coming to an end soon. If you have a Little Girl Within story that you would like to share in order to encourage others, I would love to hear from you. Guidelines for submission are at the bottom of the post for the start of the series here.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

The Little Girl Within -- Working Through Woundedness

"Honor Thy Mother and Father."  It is one of the ten commandments, but it can be hard.  What do we do when our parents have hurt us?  What does honoring look like then? Today, a dear woman, who asked to remain anonymous, shares a piece of her story, her struggle and what she is learning from the Lord.
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Growing up with my mother was not always easy.  She was diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder when I was just a baby. Then, my parents divorced when I was four years old.

The environment in our household was very unpredictable.   Sometimes, my mother would laugh, cook for us and talk with us about our days.  Unfortunately, usually my mom was angry, depressed, very critical and couldn’t/wouldn’t get out of bed to either work or cook.

Most of the time, I felt like I was the mother.  My brother and I took on the roles of being the parents. We did the cooking, cleaning, get ourselves up and ready for school and even get jobs in order to buy the groceries we needed. It was my reality. We did what we had to do.

All I wanted to do was be a kid. I wanted a mom that would tell me she loved me, take care of my needs, and give me the advice and guidance I so desperately needed as I was growing up.  Instead, I was taking care of my mom’s needs and making sure that to an outsider, everything appeared okay. 

It was exhausting.  I would get so angry, and then feel guilty for being angry. How was I supposed to honor a mother that couldn’t/wouldn't get out of bed for weeks at a time?  How could I honor a mother that rarely asked me how me how my day was or showed any interest in me at all? How could I honor a mother that criticized every little thing that I did when all I was trying to do was help?  How could I honor a mother that I was so angry at?

I struggle with it.  I prayed that God would allow me to see my mom through His eyes and view her as He does.  Choosing to honor my mother for my spiritual health is not easy. 

God revealed to me that my mom did the best that she could.  She may not have been the mom that I so desperately wanted her to be, but she was the best mom that she was able to be.  By allowing God to help heal these past hurts, I am learning to be more compassionate and accepting of others for who they are.

Honoring my mother does not mean that I will never get angry with her, nor does it mean that what she did was okay.  It just means that I will not allow past hurts and anger to dictate my actions/reactions to any situation.  I do not have control over other people’s actions, but I will be held accountable for my own.

I have a choice.  I can allow hurt and anger to harden my heart towards others, or I can chose forgiveness and take one step closer to being the person that God intends me to be. God has blessed me with three beautiful children.  I thank God daily that He has blessed me and that He is helping me to heal so that I can be the kind of mom He so desires for me to be.  Praise God!
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This series will be coming to an end soon. If you have a Little Girl Within story that you would like to share in order to encourage others, I would love to hear from you. Guidelines for submission are at the bottom of the post for the start of the series here.

Monday, October 25, 2010

The Little Girl Within -- A Little Girl Grows Up

Curiosity and wonder come naturally to a child, but sometimes as we grow older, "life" seems to dampen this gift ... but there is hope.  Today, Judi shares a bit of her story.
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            As a little girl living in an apartment building in the city, I found many wonders to behold for a child’s eye.  Surrounded mostly by concrete and tar, with only occasional patches of greenery, I could still find fascination around me. 
            The one bedroom apartment was small for a family of four, but the kitchen window offered a wondrous view of dust particles sparkling in a ray of sunshine or at night the neon signs flashing on and off at nearby businesses.  Equally fascinating, the sweet smell of the spring rain, how on the hottest days of summer the tar in the streets would bubble up, the beautiful colored leaves of fall, or heavy snowfalls in the winter that meant fun rather than school. 
            However, as time passed, childish wonder in my life was crushed and buried under the weight of the emotional pain of a dysfunctional family.  Little by little fascination fell victim to the upheaval of a home filled with anger, so much so that by the age of ten I was already severely depressed.
            This depression, in varying degrees, persisted for many years as I passed through the difficult teen age into adulthood, a bad marriage, divorce and the challenges of being a single parent - all of which fed into the emotional turmoil.
            Finally, after living half of the normal expectancy of life, I discovered the answer for my hopeless spirit to be only a prayer away.  The words of a song come to mind, “He was there all the time, He was there all the time, Waiting patiently in line, He was there all the time.”  He, God, responded to my prayer avowing the need for Him in my life.  I made the wonderful choice to be His child, not that of the world that could offer no solace, and found that special peace which is offered to each of us who acknowledge Jesus Christ to be God’s Son and our Redeemer. 
            It has been many years now since that life-changing decision and miraculously God has restored and renewed my childhood wonder through past memories and current blessings.
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Judi lives in Wisconsin and has had inspirational articles published nationally. She has written award winning poetry and short stories, as well as being a Christian speaker.  She may be contacted at amber1lady@yahoo.com .

If you have a Little Girl Within story that you would like to share in order to encourage others, I would love to hear from you. Guidelines for submission are at the bottom of the post for the start of the series here.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Recapping the Race

(I interrupt the current programming  -- The Little Girl Within Series -- to bring to you a recap of my race.)

The early morning was crisp and clear as the city of Chicago woke up to the energy of nearly 8,000 participants radiating waves of excitement through the air.  Urbanathlon 2010 sat perched at the starting line.
Slotted for the third leg of the relay, I, along with two of the men on our team (Underground Functional Fitness), headed out by bus to the drop off point, just south of McCormick place, and settled in to a wait for our team members to come in to view and pass on the chip.
The guys left first. I eagerly jumped up and down waiting for Tami, the second leg team member for our women’s relay team.  Andrea (the other Andrea) led off on leg one, passed the timing chip to Tami, and now I would be wearing it to the finish line.  I was excited to see Tami swinging through on the monkey bars (strong and fast) and then scrambling on her belly under the net (at lightning speed). 
She handed off the timing chip to me, I strapped it on my ankle, and headed off at a comfortable, fairly fast pace, through the loading docks of McCormick Place. Runners passed one another like cars on a crowded highway, darting in and out, slowing down, speeding up.  
One mile in to the race, I approached the first obstacle course – the stairs at Soldier Field.  Up and down stairs and ramps I ran with the crowd, like ants at a picnic, focusing on the sweet relief of the finish line. Huffing. Puffing. Determined.
The stairs were far more intense than I had bargained for, but I tried to revel in the moment of being in a famous stadium;  I persevered, not letting fatigue deter me from my goal.
Once out of the stadium, I ran (despite my legs screaming, “Stop!”) along the course, trailing near Lakeshore drive, looking out over Lake Michigan. 
Eventually, the roar of the crowd gradually grew louder. I felt re-energized, knowing that the end was near.
I rounded the corner, approaching the last obstacle course arena, coming face-to-face with two rows of taxis a city bus and an 8 foot wall.  Tired, mildly sick to my stomach, but excited I leaped over taxi number one ...

and then hustled over taxi number 2.

My heart quickened at the sound of my families uproarious cheers, “Go Mom!”  I glanced over at them and smiled.  How could I not.  My fan club was just 10 feet away, screaming with enthusiasm – my family.
I hustled over the rope netting up one side of the bus and down the other,
and paused to take a deep breath and thwart a possible siege of throwing up, while evaluating the 8 foot wall.
“I didn’t come this far to not climb the wall,” I mumbled to myself, grabbing a hold of the rope, placing my feet on the wall in Spiderman fashion, and pulling myself up.
Within seconds, I was up and over and sprinted to the finish line, with every last ounce I had left.
In four words, “I had a blast.”  It was hard and totally outside my comfort zone, but I am so very glad that I did it! 
Someday, I will climb over the final wall and make my last sprint to the finish line.  I don’t know what it will look like, but as I recap the race of my life, in addition to relishing the joys, I trust that I will see the value of the obstacles and the purpose of the long stretches.
But for now, I am thankful that I ran this race. I am thankful for my team members. I am thankful for David Brown believing in me and helping me to become strong and healthy. I am thankful for my family cheering me on in this race -- and in life. And I am thankful for the Lord who is constantly showing Himself to me in all of life.
When you look back over the race of your life, what will you recap?

Monday, October 18, 2010

The Little Girl Within -- A Suitcase Full of Fears

Fears -- we all have them and they can be difficult to handle.  Today, my friend Lori Jones shares a descriptive and insightful story about when she was a little girl watching her Aunt struggle and how Lori is learning how to surrender her own fears.
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     On pins and needles I watched Aunt Irene carry the serving platter across her kitchen.  The plate bobbed and weaved like the flight of the bumblebee and threatened to come crashing to the linoleum.  The potential of things breaking sent shivers down my spine; at just nine years old, I had already figured out that broken things meant for a bad day in my household.
Just as I was about to develop a quiet ulcer, the tray found a home on the counter.  Whew.  Then, off she went with a dishtowel, wiping a glass and holding several others in the crook of her arm!
She traveled with a tilted gait and mumbled to herself while cleaning up after our evening meal. Her head swayed with a mind of its own.
            This was the first summer we had come to Colorado and found her shaking like this.  I had heard through the parental eavesdrop line that Irene was sick.  I was sure it was Huntington’s, the secret disease in our family, the one that grownups spoke of in hushed tones when the children were playing.
I knew there was no cure; of that I was sure, and I wondered if they could tell by looking at you whether you had it or not, because at family gatherings the adults would cluster and whisper with one other, while peeking up and around at us cousins.
I sat frozen while Irene finished, alternating between chewing my fingernails and gripping the table edge.
When we had arrived the night before, I desperately wanted to hug my Aunt Irene, and yet I was completely terrified of her and whatever had taken over her body.  What if right in the middle of the embrace she uncontrollably grabbed me and wouldn’t let go?  What if she tipped over, and it was my fault? If the truth be told, I feared I might catch what she had if I got too close.
My Little Girl Within had fears, lots of them, and she stowed them in a suitcase and travelled with them into adulthood.
Fear is a roadblock; it can stop us in our tracks if we allow it. In the Old Testament, when the Israelites were to conquer and take possession of the Promised Land, they were also afraid.  Although their new home was filled with good food and fertile soil, it was also inhabited by strong men, towering over them.  The future was unknown and intimidating.  But God said through their leader Moses, “Be strong and courageous.. the Lord himself goes before you and will be with you; He will never leave you nor forsake you. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged.” (Deut. 31:6-7)
Looking back on that trip, I regret not holding her tight.  I’m proud of my aunt, forging through the kitchen like nothing, not even a bad case of sea legs, could stop her from getting the dishes done.  I will remember Irene, not as a victim of Huntington’s Disease, but as someone with courage, who refused to become paralyzed by her present circumstances or to dwell on hypothetical’s; she just did the next logical thing.
I’m learning to unpack my fears, one at a time, and release them to God. Does this ensure a positive outcome?  Not necessarily, but if God promises to go before me, I will try to follow Him and rest in the assurance that a “mind controlled by the Spirit is life and peace”. (Romans 8:6)

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Lori Jones is a wife and mother of three children.  She is a self-employed database designer who works part time in order to balance caring for her family and home with her passion for writing and teaching.  Lori is a regular speaker and teacher for Women’s Wednesday Bible Study at Calvary Bible Church in Neenah, Wisconsin.

If you have a Little Girl Within story that you would like to share in order to encourage others, I would love to hear from you. Guidelines for submission are at the bottom of the post for the start of the series here.

Friday, October 15, 2010

The Little Girl Within -- Never Forgotten by Him

Is it hard to believe that you are loved?  Do you tend to build walls around your heart?  Do you fear that you are forgotten?  My friend Betty shares her story of when she was a little girl, where she learned how to build walls and how her dear Jesus has come in and broken down the walls.  We all build walls, don't we? But there is hope ... 
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     Sometimes I wish I could go back and be a fly on the wall. To see why "the little girl within" learned to smile on the outside, but hurt so much on the inside. To understand why the wall around her heart was built. She didn't even realize the wall was going up, brick by brick, to protect her heart from feeling unloved and disappointed. How is the "little girl within" affected at birth, two years old, and four years old when love and life is disrupted by a mother's mental illness and hospitalization? What would the fly see? An emotionally sick mother, unable to love? An impressionable little girl, desperately needing love?
     "Can a mother forget the baby at her breast and have no compassion on the child she has borne? Though she may forget, I will not forget you!" Isaiah 49:15-16.
    And Jesus, who heals the brokenhearted, did not forget me. He was there. He saw me (and the wall). He's shown me over time that the wall to protect was actually a barrier to receiving the love I longed for. The wall hindered me from relationally going deep in giving and receiving love as God desired. I had fear in loving.
     He said, "There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear..." 1 John 4:18.  And the one who IS perfect love, the ONLY ONE who can love perfectly, God himself, has driven out my fear. He has broken down the old wall.
     Are there still times when the "little girl within" says, "Quick, put up the wall, guard your heart!"?
     Yes. God is still working. But he reassures me life is not so much about a stopwatch as about a compass. We are heading in the right direction together.
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Betty resides in Neenah, WI with her husband and four children. They attend Calvary Bible Church. When not busy volunteering at her children's schools, her church, or the Fair Market Thrift store, she enjoys walking their dog, reading at Neenah's Kimberly Point overlooking Lake Winnebago, and going on dates anytime, anywhere with her husband.

If you have a Little Girl Within story that you would like to share in order to encourage others, I would love to hear from you. Guidelines for submission are at the bottom of the post for the start of the series here.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

The Little Girl Within -- The Kiss that Changed Everything

Do you have deep pains in your past?  Do you wonder if Jesus is pursuing you, relentlessly, tenderly?  Meet my friend Deanna and peer in to a part of  her tender, precious heart and then witness the hope that she has in Jesus. This hope is  for you, too, dear reader.
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I pushed my soup around my bowl. Why had he kissed me? What kind of kiss was that supposed to be? Was that supposed to be a regular “uncle” kiss? We were a huggy family, but I’d never been kissed on the lips by anyone but my parents. Really, by the time I was 13 I mostly kissed even my mom and dad on the cheek. If that wasn’t a romantic kiss, why was I feeling so stirred up? Why was my mind swimming?
I peeked out from under my hair at my aunt and Grandma’. Could they see that my mind was spinning? What would they have thought if the kiss had happened in the kitchen instead of in the garage? Should I go back to the woods where we’d been working together? He was splitting wood, and I was loading it.  Should I say I wanted to stay in the house and help wash the lunch dishes?
When we went back to work my questions were answered. Yes. I should’ve stayed in the house and done the dishes. No, I shouldn’t have gone back in the woods. No, it was not a regular “uncle” kiss. I felt stirred up because I was 13, and he was 28 and he intended for me to feel that way.
The little girl within me stayed behind in the woods that day.
When I went to the altar to pray at church, I embarrassed my family and learned that even Jesus couldn’t help. I began to question what I’d believed about Jesus. I questioned the Bible. I even questioned my questions. No one had the answers. The little girl who once loved church and Jesus became a young woman who wanted to believe, and wanted to love Jesus, but had been broken by bad choices. After a while, the bad choices of my uncle and other grown-ups were compounded by my own bad choices. I was impossibly far from Jesus.
“Then Jesus told them this parable, ‘Suppose one of you has a hundred sheep and loses one of them. Does he not leave the ninety-nine in the open country and go after the lost sheep until he finds it?” Luke 15:3-4 (NIV)
For years I ran from Jesus. From Jesus, because He was pursuing me even when I didn’t know it. He was pursuing me when I was with kids at camp who had a real, vibrant relationship with Him. He was pursuing me when I checked out library books on tarot card reading and the occult but my schedule grew so hectic that I never had time to open the first book. He was pursuing me when I was invited to Campus Crusade for Christ, and loved it the one time I went, and missed it (and Him) when I refused to go again. He was pursuing me when I got married and tried to find my identity in being a wife. He was pursuing me when I got pregnant and started attending church again because I wanted my baby to be raised in church. He was pursuing me when I was invited to Bible Study and began to see that He desired a relationship with me.
“And when he finds it, he joyfully puts it on his shoulders and goes home. Then he calls his friends and neighbors together and says, ‘Rejoice with me; I have found my lost sheep.” Luke 15:5-6 (NIV)
I get frustrated with myself sometimes. I still have areas of weakness. I still have places that hurt sometimes. But I know I will never again be the lost sheep. Those areas where I’m weak cause me to recognize my deep need for Jesus and stay close to my shepherd.  I see that my weaknesses and dark places are opportunities to be led by Jesus. I see that it’s through my weakness that I have hope and a witness to offer to others who need a shepherd.

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Deanna Rouse has been married to her wonderful husband for 20 years. Being his wife and  mom to their 3 children is her greatest joy after serving Jesus Christ, through teaching Sunday School and women's Bible study. She especially enjoys using drama to teach the truths of the Bible. She loves to read and to visit the mountains of North Carolina and Virginia. If she can read in the mountains that's even better.

If you have a Little Girl Within story that you would like to share in order to encourage others, I would love to hear from you. Guidelines for submission are at the bottom of the post for the start of the series here.

Monday, October 11, 2010

The Little Girl Within -- Looking out the Window

Do you ever feel stuck in a situation, unable to get out and scared of what may happen?  Do you struggle with knowing that you have choices? Today, in the Little Girl Within series, a friend who has asked to remain anonymous, shares a bit about her journey in feeling like this and some of the truths that the Lord is revealing to her.
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      Sitting in the back seat of the car, with my shoulders barely reaching the edge of the roll down window and my chin resting on the edge of the car door panel, I peered out the window.  Repeatedly, I recited to myself quietly, “If I can just get home, then I’ll be alright. Once I get to my room, I can find something to do and I’ll feel better.” 
     I tried to hide the tears rolling down my cheeks, as I watched the world go by outside the window.   I did not want to get in trouble for crying. I did not want to have to answer the angry question, “Why the _ _ _ _ are you crying now?” I didn’t know why I was crying. I was sad. I was lonely. I just wanted to be a little girl – loved, cherished and free to be me. It wasn't any one thing that happened, but rather, a childhood spent feeling left out, not important and afraid that I would mess up.
     My father was an unhappy man; I don’t think he could help it. I suspect he was a hurting man, too, perhaps from years of rejection and oppression when he was a little boy. Now, with his left hand gripping the bottom edge of the steering wheel and his right hand resting on the top of it, it seemed as if he was quick to yell at us or reach back and slap at us if we were not behaving as he desired.  Cigarette smoke filled the inside of the car. Heavier than the smoke was the anxiety that permeated the space.
     “If I can just get home, I’ll be alright. I’ll be okay. I’ll be fine.”
     I find myself still thinking like this from time to time when I am in a circumstance in which I think I can’t escape. Without even knowing,  like the little girl, peering out the window, waiting to get to my destination, I hold on for dear life, focused on the end point, fearing what may happen on the journey. I begin to feel hopeless and stuck.  I can only wait to the end where I am sure I can orchestrate quiet and order. Or at least, I can try.
      But the Lord is working with me. He is showing me that I do not need to white knuckle it through life. I am not stuck. I am not hopeless. I do have choices. I am not the little girl sitting behind the glass, alone. He was and is always with me.
     I can open the window, take a deep breath of clean air – His truth – and be assured of His love and care for me. I can cry if I need, too.  He knows why.  I’m okay, because He is more than okay. I’ll be fine, because He is mine.
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If you have a Little Girl Within story that you would like to share in order to encourage others, I would love to hear from you. Guidelines for submission are at the bottom of the post for the start of the series here.

Friday, October 8, 2010

The Little Girl Within -- A Treasure

Do you wonder about the little girl within you?  Do you know her? Have you forgotten her?  Today, Gail shares a snapshot of her discovery of her little girl within and the hope and healing that the Lord is giving her.

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                   I found her.  I reclaimed her.  I cherish her.  And oh, how I love her.  You see, I had lost her for many years.  Years of pain and neglect from two very wounded parents.  She had become a forgotten stranger in my life.  Even after having my own children, something was amiss, some pieces were lost.  I wanted to complete this puzzle I called my life.

                I sought professional guidance on this journey of my soul.  God was invited along each step of the way.  I wrote letters to my parents solely for my healing, not for mailing.  I found a tiny symbol of myself at age 8.  Something tangible to hold in the palm of my hand, to look at and to love.  

                On my nightstand rests a framed photo of myself at age 3.  Blonde curls tumbling around my neck, outside, happy face.  Every time I look at that picture, my heart fills with love for that dear sweet child.  I talk to her.  I taught her about feelings.  “What are you feeling?”  “What do you need?”  I give her something she never received -- unconditional love.  I love spending time with her.  She is pretty neat.  We play together.  We cry together.  I love her well and we love life together.  I will never let her go.  She is too precious.  She is who I am.  She is a treasure.
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Gail is a wife and mother of three children.  She put herself through college as an adult.  Recently, she chose to leave an IT career and is an aspiring children’s author.  “When I look at a child, I feel their soul; that delicate fragile heart yearning to be noticed, to be engaged, to be loved.”

If you have a Little Girl Within story that you would like to share in order to encourage others, I would love to hear from you. Guidelines for submission are at the bottom of the post for the start of the series here.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

The Little Girl Within -- God's Mysterious Ways

God is intricately writing our stories, but sometimes it is hard to see what He is doing.  Today, Mary Schiller shares her “Little Girl Within” story, a touching story of redemption and God’s grace.   Thank you, Mary, for openly sharing your heart with us and reminding us that the Lord does bring beauty from ashes.
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 "The little girl within" was happy and showered in love. (Perhaps even a tad spoiled!) I arrived in my family at a time when most parents would have been contemplating their approaching empty nest.  My oldest brother was 21, attending college and engaged to be married the following year.  The middle one was 19 and in the Navy.  It was 1947 so he was involved with cleaning up the mess of war in Japan.  The youngest, who had been dubbed the tag-a-long, was almost 12, well on his way to adulthood.  And then came me, the long-awaited little girl, apple of my daddy's eye.
    My daddy was a minister of a very strict church with lots of rules and regulations about how to please God and eventually be good enough for Heaven someday.  As long as I abided by those rules things were fine and "the little girl within" did just that. But then that little girl began to grow and yearn for forbidden things.  The cravings began with nail polish and lipstick then escalated to blaring rock and roll music and glossy teen idol posters plastered around my room.  My dad was into "saving" long-haired bad boys in black leather on Harleys.  He would take them places, visit them if they landed in jail and even provide them with a roof over their heads when their parents had their fill and kicked them out.  Little did he know they were supplying me with all the cigarettes I could smoke (major sin) whenever his head was turned.
    When I was 16 I found one of those long-haired Harley riders for myself and by 17 was married to him. I loved my dad dearly and was able to reconnect with him later in life, but it took me a really long time to forgive him for not realizing just how much I needed his guidance in the turbulence of my teen years.  In his mind I had been raised right and that should have been enough.
    God used this rebellious teen girl and a boy already fighting mental demons and about to embark in the battle of his life with Huntington's Disease to bring forth 2 beautiful daughters and 6 wonderful grandchildren who have all accepted Him into their hearts. Our oldest grandson is in college preparing for ministry.  I can truthfully say God has worked in a mysterious way to bring about His will in my life and create beauty from the ashes of my mistakes.
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Mary Schiller enjoys reading.  As a former Sunday school teacher and church librarian, she desires to help children walk with the Lord and is currently involved in Awana at Calvary Bible Church in Neenah.  On of her daughters, Lori Jones, also shared her “Little Girl Within” story, A Kept Promise, here.   Mary resides in Neenah, Wisconsin.

If you have a Little Girl Within story that you would like to share in order to encourage others, I would love to hear from you. Guidelines for submission are at the bottom of the post for the start of the series here. 

Monday, October 4, 2010

The Little Girl Within -- Learning that She is Loved

Do you struggle with believing that God’s love is really for you?  Are you scared or unsure that He does?  Today, I share with you a brief letter that my friend Carol Adams sent me regarding the inner struggle of her heart.  Thank you, Carol, for your courage in sharing, not out of a heart that is holding on to the hurt, but out of a heart that is seeking to know, understand and love the Lord, desiring to grow closer to Him.
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I tend to compare God to my earthly father. My earthly father was critical and unloving. My earthly father got very mad at me when I showed emotion, when I was weak, if I was not perfect. He still does.
I work very hard at letting go of my definition of “father.” One of the greatest challenges that I face is knowing that God can and does love me.  I know He is a loving God, but I always think that He is a loving God to everyone else, but not me because I am so unworthy of His love. I always feel like I am a disappointment to Him. I want so much for Him to love me, but for some reason something stops me from feeling like I can let Him.
My first instinct is to put myself down when things don’t go “right.” I am working on accepting myself just how I am, and that it’s OK if I’m not perfect; God still loves me.  It’s OK to be sad, mad, scared, or just out-of-sorts.  Those feelings don’t make me a bad person, they just make me human. I am in the process of trying to realize that my Heavenly Father does love me in spite of my emotions and my weaknesses. 
This is a challenge for me, but I continue to try and accept God’s truths for my life and not listen to the lies.    God is faithful. He is showing me His love in new ways, every day.
Praise God that I do not have to be the same person that I was yesterday.  Every day is such a wonderful opportunity to learn, grow, and become the person that God intended me to be. I love this verse. It brings me hope. “"What this means is that those who become Christians become new persons.  They are not the same anymore, for the old life is gone.  A new life has begun!" 2 Corinthians 5:17 (NLT).
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"Carol is wife and mother of three who loves the Lord. Her interests include photography, scrapbooking, and reading. She appreciates authenticity in others and views each days as an opportunity to learn and grow. She lives in Neenah, Wisconsin.
Do you have a Little Girl Within story that you would like to share? Go here. Guidelines for submission are at the bottom of the post for the start of the series. I would love to hear from you.

Friday, October 1, 2010

The Little Girl Within -- A Kept Promise

Do you find it hard to hope?  Does it require risk to believe a promise? Today, my friend Lori Jones shares a tender story from when she was a little girl.  Perhaps it is a story that will resonate in your heart, as well.
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I curled my toes vice-like into his tan, wet shoulders. My knees shook.  “Hold my thumbs”, he instructed, and I did, as if about to ride in the rodeo.
“Now, stand up.”
I stood, high above the water, the breeze sending shivers through the late afternoon sun.
“When I count to three, let go and dive forward.”
He made it sound natural to send his seven-year old daughter head first into our backyard pool.
“One.. two.. three.. DIVE!”
He sprung and boosted me air born.  If I hadn’t let go, my arms would have been yanked from their sockets and I’d have had a nose full of water, so I released my grip and plunged into the deep.  It was sort of a dive belly flop hybrid, and I felt the sting as I heard the splash.
When I surfaced, Dad smiled, “OK try it again.”
I clamored back up. I’d been swimming since I was four, a little fish according to Dad, who would know.  Growing up in our town, he was famous at the city pool for back flips, double somersaults and all sorts of stunts. In Dad’s stories, there were dives named after him, and crowds gathered the day he attempted a two-and-a-half gainer.
Since my older sister still plugged her nose, Dad decided he would advance my swimming abilities.  He often bypassed her and granted the athletic, boyish events to me, his second girl who was supposed to be his son, and I drank in the sporadic affection.
Dad had a twinkle in his eye.
“If you dive by the end of the day, your piggy bank might be full of bubble gum tomorrow.”
Bubble gum! It sounded too good to be true, like the kitten he had brought home, and then took back two days later.
But a small flame of trust, a pilot light of hope buried inside of me flickered with his words, and this time my hands prayed above my head, and I met the water with little to no splash.  He was applauding when I bobbed up for air.
“That’s my girl.” He said, “We’re done for today.”
Dad was in a good mood the rest of the night.  He sang songs and even made dinner, Spaghettio’s with RC Cola to drink.  My sister was quiet, but I downplayed it so she wouldn’t feel bad or worse, ignore me.
 “Don’t forget to check your bank tomorrow ‘Little Fish’.”
Embarrassed, I climbed into bed, wishing he wouldn’t talk about it anymore. I didn’t dare get excited.  It hurt too badly when dreams got broken.
I peeked over at my bank, a fuzzy rabbit with glass eyes gazing silently back. Unable to sleep, I practiced what I would say in the morning when the gum wasn’t there.  I drifted off planning to pretend I had forgotten too.
But in the morning there it was.  I rubbed my eyes and threw off the covers.  The rabbit looked as surprised as me, crammed full of penny gum, pieces running out and onto the dresser.  The kind in waxy paper with powder leaking out, so soft and sweet your teeth hurt if you held it between your molars too long.  The kind with cartoon wrappers, never very funny, but you always read them anyway.
I stood in my pajamas and stared. Dad came in and laughed, but his amusement made me nervous.  Was the gum real?  Was he going to take it away?
“Go on!” he urged, although we hadn’t had breakfast yet.
I took one, and it was delicious. I offered some to my sister who said, “No thanks”, but accepted after Dad left, still chuckling.
I sat on my bed chewing and thinking.  This bank full of gum messed with my entire system of how things worked around here.  This was the first promise Dad had ever kept.  If he started to come through, would our lives change completely?  Would he get a job?  Would he sleep at night and not get so angry anymore?  How was I ever to stop myself from hoping again?
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Lori Jones is a wife and mother of three children.  She is a self-employed database designer who works part time in order to balance caring for her family and home with her passion for writing and teaching.  Lori is a regular speaker and teacher for Women’s Wednesday Bible Study at Calvary Bible Church in Neenah, Wisconsin.

Do you have a Little Girl Within story that you would like to share?  Go here.  Guidelines for submission are at the bottom of the post for the start of the series.  I would love to hear from you.
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