When my son was a baby, I sat in church one Sunday, and pondered how terrible it would be to lose him; my pastor was preaching about Moses and his separation from his parents. He spoke of how Moses was learned in all the wisdom of the Egyptians, but he turned back to his own people and to God when he became mature. This settled my mind somewhat. If my baby was ever taken from me and taught things contrary to the Bible, God could reach him and bring him to faith in Yehoshua, as well as bring him back to me.
I had a friend at that time who had been tricked into giving up her first child for adoption. She had been only sixteen, unwed, and without her family in a strange city. A "Christian" woman had offered to look after the child for a year, but then seduced my friend's lawyer. Together they wrote in an extra number on the legal papers and the child was signed over for guardianship for nineteen years, instead of for only one year. Later on, the lawyer bullied her into giving the woman full custody, instead of only guardianship.
My friend married her child's father soon after that and they spent a lot of money on legal fees trying to get their child back, borrowing heavily from relatives. It was all to no avail. My friend used to park her car outside the woman's house to catch glimpses of her baby through the windows. It made her ache to see her child being held in that other woman's arms, instead of her own.
I had a vivid dream one night that I related to my friend a few days later. In my dream, a new volcano erupted near where I was staying with friends. I had another child in my dream, besides my son. My husband and our son had gone somewhere in town, while I was at my friends' home with our new baby. I made my way to the beach to get into the water, along with a lot of other people who had the same idea. I tucked my baby close inside my housecoat and said to the Lord, "Though You slay me, yet will I trust You." I didn't know if I would be alive to see my son again, or if he would live, but I knew that we would be reunited in Heaven. Then sharp slivers of molten lava that had hardened flew all around me, but none of them touched me because God directed me through the Holy Spirit how to stand, so that I wouldn't be hit.
Soon afterwards, my friend said to me one day, "Lanny, I have stopped fighting for my daughter. God showed me through your dream that, regardless of what has happened, I am still her mother, and we will be reunited some day in Heaven." All her distress about her lost child was now gone.
It was only a short time after my friend handed her situation over to the Lord, accepting that she might not see her daughter again in this life, that the woman who stole her child tired of her. Her own two children were now both in school and she wanted to party while they were gone. Having to look after a small child was cramping her style. I attended a joyful baby shower for my friend's oldest child, who was then four years old.
Some years later, I said to my friend, "I can see why God had us be friends. I am encouraged in my own situation when I think of what God did in yours."
As I have stated on some of my other pages on this site, my ex–husband took off to Alberta with my children. He gained legal custody of them when I suffered a nervous breakdown shortly after our marriage broke up. I was granted joint guardianship and access in BC, but to extend those rights in Alberta, I had to go to court there to apply for them.
I started the process in Alberta, attending a discovery in Wetaskiwin. It was to no avail. My ex–husband got as much mileage as he could out of my having spent six days in a psychiatric ward, and he took advantage of those unsaved lawyers' spiritual ignorance to make me look like a religious fanatic. He made much about me having the gift of tongues and believing in angels and prayer for healing, which the lawyers thought was bizarre.
What he didn't say is that his mother believed in all those things, but he had no objection to her spending time with the children. He also did not mention that he had asked people to pray for him when he needed healing, and he had received healing. He let people pray for him to receive the gift of tongues, but he didn't receive that gift; we both felt frustrated about it.
We could never figure out why he had not received that gift, but I think that God held it back because He knew what was ahead. Though my ex–husband made very serious errors in that law office, considering how much he had been blessed by being raised by a mother who operated in the gifts of the Spirit, and had received so much mercy from God in his life, if he had partaken of that heavenly gift, God would have held him more accountable. He might not have given him any more chances to get his heart right with Him.
When he was asked if he believed in the existence of demons, he replied scornfully, "You might as well ask me if I believe in space aliens." I could recall him telling me that, when he lived in Scotland, he saw a demon that looked like a huge, black dog. At first he thought it was just a big dog. It was the size of a pony, and he started to head over to it to get a closer look. He loved animals and felt excited about how large it was. But then the dog looked in his direction and grinned. It chilled him to the core of his soul.
My husband also said that his little sister saw the very same dog that day. When she told their mother about it, she said that it opened its mouth and ten little dogs ran out of it. He also told me various other tales that demonstrated a firm belief in the existence of demons. He had not answered my lawyer's question. She should have insisted on yes and no answers from him.
I watched my lawyer during the discovery and couldn't believe how dense she was, though she was an intelligent woman. I think that, even if I had been an outsider, rather than one who knew him well, it was obvious that my ex–husband was hedging. I could have asked him plenty of questions that he would not have been able to evade without outright lying. I could see that his own lawyer, though, was starting to figure him out, but she was being paid to help him win his case, so she did her duty to her client.
Something very weird was happening in my situation. It had to be a demonic assignment. Right from the start, nearly everybody who was connected to the government believed what my husband told them, though it was obvious to my friends and family (the people who had no power in the situation) that he was just using the children to be spiteful to me. Later when I was in counselling with my son, the group home counsellor said that she was shocked at what the government had done to me. After I got the children back, though, the government assisted in helping to clean up the mess.
Things I said in letters to my children were twisted, such as when I told them that angels were standing over them with swords to protect them. His lawyer asked me if I did not think that talking about someone standing over them with a sword was a scary image to put in a child's mind. I don't think so. I made it clear in the letter that the angels were there to protect them, not to chop them up.
The whole situation was such a mess that I had to give up on trying to go through the courts to get access to my children. My pastor advised me to let it go. He said that he had seen similar suits before that had turned into a big, dirty mess, and it was best to just let it go.
I consoled myself with Proverbs 20:7 that says, "The just man walks in his integrity: his children are blessed after him." As long as I walked in obedience to God, He would watch over my children, even if I wasn't with them.
The children didn't think He had looked after them very well when they lived in Alberta. After my daughter came to live with me, she cried and ranted that she hated God because she had prayed every day for Him to get her out of there (she has had issues about her stepmother), but He left her there for four, miserable years. She said she hated God, and she knew He hated her because He knew she hated Him.
My heart melted with pity because I know His love for her is very tender and He understands her pain. I am thankful that He brought the kids back when they were still children, rather than letting us remain parted until they were adults.
Even before he left the province with my children, my ex–husband denied my visitation rights, using any excuse he could think of. The kids were sick. Well, all the more reason for me to want to be with them; they needed me to cuddle and comfort them. Or he scheduled something else for them to do on the weekends when I was supposed to get them.
I prayed and asked the Lord to show me something from the Bible that would confirm that He was going to restore my children to me. I was led to Isaiah 49:24 & 25 that says, "Shall the prey be taken from the mighty, or the lawful captive delivered? But thus says the LORD, Even the captives of the mighty shall be taken away, and the prey of the terrible shall be delivered: for I will contend with him that contends with you, and I will save your children."
It really grabbed my attention that the verse referred to lawful captives because my ex–husband had legal custody. Though he had the government on his side, making the situation into a veritable Goliath, I had God's promise that He would restore my children. But there is another application to this verse. Even if a parent deserved to have their children taken away because they were abusive, if the parent will repent of their sins, change their ways, and trust God to reunite them with their children, if He quickens this word to them, He will do it.
These verses gave me great comfort when my children were taken out of the province. God then added Jeremiah 31:16 & 17, "Thus says the LORD; Refrain your voice from weeping, and your eyes from tears: for your work shall be rewarded, says the LORD; and they shall come again from the land of the enemy. And there is hope in your end, says the LORD, that your children shall come again to their own border."
After my initial bouts of tears, I didn't cry much for my children over the next five years. I remembered those verses in Jeremiah.
When I felt frustration about the precious years and important moments with my children that I was missing out on, I reminded myself that God would make it up to me someday. Those pleasures were not denied, just deferred. When I go to Heaven, I'll get to see holograms of beautiful moments in my children's lives that I missed out on when they were in Alberta. Why not? If Heaven is better than anything we can imagine, then the good things we can imagine will be there, and so much more.
I got to hold my children sometimes in my dreams, which was a comfort, though not as good as the real thing. Knowing that God was holding them in His hand, I blew kisses to Heaven and asked God to have His angels take them to my children and press them on their faces. Even if my children were not consciously aware of those kisses, surely somewhere within their spirit, they were being touched by my love.
I wrote them a lot of letters and photocopied each one, in case their father didn't give them the letters, but also because my lawyer in BC advised me to photocopy my letters when he saw how my husband and his lawyer were twisting my words. Here's a tip for non–custodial parents: get some smart, trustworthy people to read letters that you write to your children and letters that you write to your ex–spouse (or his relatives) before you send them. They might be able to see how some of your words can be taken out of context. I never bounced my letters off of anyone before I sent them, but I probably should have.
I also kept a list of presents that I sent my children. This proved to be a good thing, and I recommend it to all parents who have had their children snatched away. To this date, my children haven't read those letters, yet, but it was good for the kids to see evidence after I got them back, that I had sent them letters and presents. They got some of the presents and could recall them, but they had been told that my mother had sent them.
By sharing these things, I hope to help other people who are going through the same thing that I went through, but don't know where to turn or what to do. Turn to Yehoshua. He knows your pain and He cares. But also do some things that will be proof later on to your children that you didn't forget about them.
I am not a professional counsellor and nothing I advise on this website should be taken as if it were coming from a professional psychologist or lawyer or doctor or professional anything. What I offer is what I have learned through my experiences and reading. Bounce it off of your lawyer or professional counsellor for their feedback, in regards to the merit of my advice.
Think hard before you sign over custody of your children. It might be a good idea to make the other party go to court to get it, if you can't look after your children. When my husband wanted me to sign over custody of our children, my doctor advised me against it. I was ill at the time and a symptom of my illness was that I was very passive. Even without my doctor's advice, I knew it was a bad idea to voluntarily put my name on that piece of paper.
My father once waved beneath my nose a custody paper that my mother signed. It stated that she initially signed my sister, brother, and me over to our father's custody, but was now revoking her consent to give her mother temporary guardianship and custody. My Dad ranted, "See, she left you. She signed this paper to give me custody."
Yes, it was a mistake for my mother to leave us with our violent, alcoholic father who used to eat our baby food when there was nothing else to eat in the house, and leave none of it for his babies. She had been brutalized so much that she wasn't thinking clearly when she left him, but if she hadn't left him when she did, she would have completely cracked up.
My mother didn't know what to do about her children. She hadn't finished high school, though she got her diploma later. Any job she could have gotten would not have left her with enough money to support herself and three children after she paid a babysitter to look after us. So she left us with him, but she didn't leave us with him for long. She called her mother right away to tell her where we were. Grandma sent one of our teenaged uncles to Vancouver to see how we were doing, and he brought us back to Revelstoke. My father hopped on a ship bound for Australia when he was ordered to pay child support, and I didn't meet him until I was seventeen.
My father is now deceased, but I am happy to say that I have good reason to believe that he repented of his sins and received Yehoshua as his Saviour before he died. I look forward to seeing him in Heaven and having there the beautiful relationship that I wanted with him that we couldn't have on Earth.
That piece of paper that my father waved beneath my nose didn't change the fact that it was our mother who raised us, after she married our stepfather, and it didn't exonerate our father who steered clear of us until we were grown up and wouldn't need child support. Whatever happened, I didn't want to give my husband a piece of paper with my name on it to taunt my children with some day as "proof" that I didn't want them. I was ill and couldn't fight for my children, but I hadn't totally lost my mind.
Pray about getting a non–removal order if the other spouse has custody. If they take your children somewhere distant in the province, at least your court order for access and joint guardianship is still valid. You won't have to go to another province to fight it out there.
If you and your ex–spouse were born in Canada, get passports for the children. Individual passports are now required for each child. Children can no longer be listed on the passport of one of their parents. Your spouse can't get passports to take them out of the country, if you already have passports for them. The government doesn't issue more than one passport at a time for the same person. If the other parent has dual citizenship, the situation is more complicated, especially if it is citizenship in a Muslim country where there is not much support for women's rights, or for the rights of a parent who is not a Muslim.
If your spouse abandons your marriage, don't be "nice" and let them off the hook easily. Don't worry that they will think that you're a bag or a creep, if you get tough with them. They already think that's what you are and are probably saying it to anyone who will listen. Not going after them for alimony and child support isn't likely to make them shut up.
If you make it easy for your spouse to behave like a jerk, they will think that you're an idiot, and they will walk all over you. They aren't likely to try to get away with so much, if they see that you're going to be a tough person to take advantage of. But don't go overboard and venture into spite. That would hurt you, your children, the spouse's relatives who might not have anything to do with your quarrel, and God will not stand up for someone who does that.
Think of your children. Go for child support and don't take the other person's word for it that they will give you money for the kids without going through the courts. Get it in writing and make in enforceable. On top of that, go for alimony, as well. Make it hard for the other party to go back to being a swinging single. They should have taken marriage more seriously before they entered into it.
It was a blessing to me to get to know a woman in my Covenant Keepers group whose father had divorced her mother, and kept her mother from being able to see her and her two brothers. She said that her father told them that their mother was crazy and a religious fanatic. They met their mother after they were grown, and discovered that she was a gracious lady. There wasn't much time, however, to get to know her by then because she died soon after from cancer. Carol did not meet her mother until after she became a Christian. She said with a happy smile, "I think that I became a Christian because my mother was praying for me."
I also got to hear a woman testify in a public meeting about her similar background. Again, the mother was reviled to the children, but they discovered later that she is a fine Christian. I surmised that the children hadn't been happy living with the father; the woman said that she spent more time visiting her Christian neighbours than at home. She spoke of how proud her mother is to hear her sing solos at church, how she beams at her from the front row. It was heartening to see the healing that God can bring to that kind of situation.
All of these things, and more besides, bolstered my belief that God would bring my children back to me, but after five years of separation and no contact, my patience was wearing thin. My ex–husband would not even let me talk to them on the phone, except for when a Christmas call was set up in 1989, in spite of difficulties that he threw in the way of organizing that phone call. I phoned him in Alberta four times over a period of a few weeks, after he first moved there, but then he got an unlisted number. He said I was harassing him. All I was asking was to talk to my children. The fourth time I called, he said they were in bed. It was only 7 p.m. in Alberta and I pointed that out to him. Besides that, I could hear kids playing in the background. He got huffy and hung up.
I sat there with the phone in my hand and cried out to God, "Lord, it's not fair!" He spoke to me firmly and said, "Well, Lanny, life is not always fair." And then He gave me the grace to accept that. Finally, at 34 years of age, I was able to accept that life is not always fair. It made a huge difference in how I felt when bad stuff happened after that. Up until then, every time something that was unfair happened to me, it felt like it was a calamity. Now it was more in the nature of just being a challenge. It is what we do with what life deals out to us that counts, not the circumstances that we find ourselves in.
I got only a couple of letters from the kids after they moved to Alberta. I wondered what my children looked like. Their father never sent me any pictures of them. I wondered how well they were doing in school. I had joint guardianship on paper, but I was never given any say in anything that concerned them, either big or small. The first time I saw my daughter with her hair cut short, it was like a punch in the stomach. Little girls' hairstyles are something that mothers usually have the say in, until the kids start to assert their own tastes. I was being obliterated from the children's lives, but the experience helped me relate to a Muslim woman whose ex–husband snatched her daughters away. The next time she saw them, they had short hair. It was just spite that the man let his girlfriend cut his daughters' hair. No woman with sensitivity would do that another woman's daughter without consulting the mother and getting permission.
I wondered what my children's personalities were like, as they had been so young when they left BC. My son had such a tender, gentle heart. Was he still that way? The year before his father took him to Alberta, Andrew asked me one day, "Mom, are there lots of people in Heaven?" I said there were. He asked, "Millions of them?" I said there were. He then wailed, "Well, how will I ever find you?" I smiled and said, "Don't worry, Andrew. If Jesus takes me to Heaven before you, He will tell me when you are coming and I will go wait by the gate." He was worried that he would lose me, but my answer seemed to calm him down.
For Mother's Day, he made me a card using the cardboard backing of a writing pad, with the words "God loves my Mom and He will take care of her." After he was gone, it was a comfort. I kept it on my wall as a reminder that my little boy loved me, and that God loved me too. I was thankful that, when I was with the kids, I frequently stopped to look at them and marvel over how cute they were, and consciously fix their faces in my mind for later years when they were grown. I had no idea at the time that I would lose my children and be so thankful that I had done that.
When my children were gone, I tried to do commission sales, so that I could buy a house for my kids to live in when they came back to me. That turned out to be a dismal failure, financially speaking, though it taught me quite a bit about business. When I felt like a failure, it seemed that there was no use to living. I never told anyone that sometimes I felt that way, but one day in church, an apostle named Andrew Shearman spoke words of knowledge over me. He said that I had been disappointed in relationships, but I was going to be cherished. He also said that I would help a lot of poor people and that I would find that life really was worth living. To help people break off their chains is why I tell the story of how God helped me deal with what I went through.
Some Christians might think that I shouldn't write anything negative about my ex–husband and mother–in–law, but how else can I make my life understandable, and how else are people going to understand why my kids were so out of control in their teens, unless I explain what their father and their grandmother did to us? God has taught me a lot of things through those trials. Some people will be able to relate and find that the solutions that worked for me will work for them, too. It sure helped me when a woman who had had a nervous breakdown came and talked to me when I was going through it. When we are hurting, we need people who can relate to our pain.
Normally, people who are persecuted by an ex–spouse don't have anyone that they can talk to about it who will understand. It takes a long time to tell people the details, so that they know what is really going on. Most people can't give them that time. They listen with only half an ear and sometimes end up thinking, "Well, that's his/her side of the story, but they probably deserve what they are getting." It is really difficult to figure out who is telling the truth when one talks to a couple who are at odds with each other.
Likewise, I don't have time to listen to people tell me long stories, and try to figure out if they are telling the truth. But those who are in a situation similar to what I experienced can read my story and take from it whatever is helpful. It always helped me, when my children were in Alberta, to come across an account of a similar situation, and see how God worked to comfort that parent and bring resolution to their situation. They were only short testimonies, though, and the parent wasn't separated from their kids as long as what I was separated from mine.
I praise God that He brought my children back. He knew how much I could take and did not permit me to be tempted beyond what I could endure.
In November 1993, I received some mail, but was too busy to open it until a couple of days later. I lay down on my bed with the envelopes clutched in my hand. Then my eyes widened. One of the letters was from my ex–husband. I tore it open and two small pictures fell onto my lap. I started to cry.
Finally, there was a crack in the wall of silence, and here were pictures of my children. Now I could see what they looked like at the ages of 11 and 13. I wept and thanked God. He had recently been ministering to me the verses from Psalm 27:13 & 14, "I had fainted, unless I had believed to see the goodness of the LORD in the land of the living. Wait on the LORD: be of good courage, and he shall strengthen your heart: wait, I say, on the LORD."
In the letter, my ex–husband said that he was coming to BC in the next month, and he said that there was a possibility that I could have the children over the holidays between Christmas and New Year. My heart leaped with excitement. I learned later that he and the children had been in BC several times over the years for visits, but he never let me know, though he could have called my family members for contact information.
When I was trying to make a go of outside sales and stayed with friends, because I wasn't earning enough to pay rent, my ex–husband liked to say on court documents that I had "no fixed address", which made it sound like I was a bag lady. I sure didn't look like a bag lady, but oh well. In an ugly dispute, consider how your lifestyle will appear, if anything about it can be criticized in court.
When my ex–husband called to see if I could take the kids that week, he was surprised that it did not conflict with my job. Before I got that letter, my boss had said that she was shutting the restaurant down between Christmas and New Year's Day. It was the first year I worked in that place, so this was news to me. I thought, "Do I need a holiday? I could use the money. Oh, well. I guess I will go to the library and get some books to read." Well, Hallelujah! God had something better for me to do that week!
Everything came together beautifully. My church gave me a turkey for the holidays, a friend gave me tins of food and extra blankets and loaned me her camera, my landlords toted in a double bed for my daughter and me to use while my son took my single bed. Another friend gave me $100.00, which came in handy when my son needed asthma medicine, as well as to pay to get us into Science World on an outing with another single mother and her boys.
It was exciting when my ex–husband brought my children to the little bachelor suite where I was living in December 1993. My daughter shyly peeked around the door, but she had a big grin on her face. My son, more subdued in his personality, was also smiling. I had my kitchen decorated with valentines I cut out of some red, Mylar balloons someone gave me and a banner that said "Welcome!"
My ex–husband was as bitter as he had ever been, though four years had passed since I had seen him at the discovery in Alberta, and it had been seven years since we'd had a fight. His behaviour was rude, but he left after five minutes, so I was soon able to have a glad reunion with my children.
We didn't know what to say to each other at first, but a few months before the kids came back, I went to the SPCA and got a beautiful, black cat that I named Mahershalalhashbaz. His name is from the Bible and means something along the lines of "speeding to the plunder, hastening to the prey." It's the kind of name that cats usually live up to when someone puts food in their dish.
Mahershalalhashbaz was a great ice breaker. Both of the kids like animals and they talked at length about Andrew's big, fat, grey cat named "Hungry", that he'd had in Alberta, and Heather's cat that Andrew named "Diarrhea Daisy". I can't recall what Heather named it; only the name that Andrew gave it sticks in my head.
One evening, Heather announced that she was going to put "kitty clothes" on Mahershalalhashbaz. I asked her where she was going to get them. She smiled smugly and leaned into my closet to fetch her baby clothes that I had saved. Andrew, however, was the only one who had any success in getting the cat into the little, plaid dress that Heather wanted to put on it. He worked carefully, while holding the cat firmly, then, with his hands still clamped around the cat to pose it on his lap, he said, "Now take your picture." I took the picture, Andrew let go of the cat, it leaped a foot into the air right out of the clothes and onto the floor, and walked away in a huff. We laughed and Andrew said he wished he could get undressed that fast.
It was delightful to discover that my kids are really funny. Andrew was hilarious when he used Mahershalalhashbaz as a puppet. He figured that his black coat made him look like a judge, so he raised the cat's arms high and said in a falsetto voice, "All rise!" and other bits of dialogue that were amusing.
When we went to my friend Sandi's house for a visit, Andrew got bored with the Muppet Show that Sandi's kids were watching. He came into the kitchen and threw himself in a chair. With disgust, he told us how stupid the plot was, imitating the voices and facial expressions. He was so funny that Sandi and I laughed our heads off. Andrew was no longer bored when he saw how much we enjoyed his mimicry. One of his cousins said she admires how he can say the wittiest things with a perfectly straight face, and you don't realize, at first, that he is joking, until you "get it".
The kids came back with a lot of problems that needed to be worked out, and I got a lot of people involved in helping them. I figured it would be healing for them to see how many people cared about them being able to have a good life. A couple of times, there were conferences about Andrew that involved seven or eight other people, including myself. I thought it was funny one of those times when Andrew made a wisecrack that totally went over everybody else's head, but I burst out laughing. All the social workers looked up from their notes and then at each other in perplexity. I explained the joke and they all busily wrote down in their notes that humour was a bridge between mother and son. But nobody else laughed at the joke. I guess it was too dry for their taste, but being able to laugh with my son was very sweet to me.
I used to watch The Simpsons with him at that time, in order to find something in common. I heard a lot of Christians complaining that The Simpsons taught kids to be disrespectful to their parents. I always laughed my head off at it. I figured, "Well, some parents do act like idiots. There is no point in trying to con the kids that it isn't so because they just resent it when you defend the indefensible. Maybe it will make some parents smarten up to get a bit of cheek from their kids when they see through their posturing."
Telling small children to do something because you said so might work for a while, but it sure won't wash with them when they get to be teens, and it is better to not even get started on that when they are little. Some psychologists disagree with that. They say the kids should do what you say because you're the parent, otherwise they will always demand a reason and argue endlessly, but I think that a balance should be struck.
In my own experience, I find it much easier to obey the Lord when He unfolds to me the reasons for His rules. Seeing the logic in them, and how they are for my own good, makes it a joy, instead of a burden, to obey Him, because it reveals something to me about His wonderful character. Then when He tells me to do something, without giving me a reason, I find it easier to trust Him and do as I am told. Paradoxically, though, I had to trust that God is always good, before I was able to understand His reasons for His rules. A person usually isn't willing to consider the reasons behind the rules, until they understand that God is good, and that He never does anything arbitrarily.
When I went to a pastor for counselling about how to handle my kids, he confided that his oldest child, who was now in her teens, had been giving him and his wife a bit of trouble. They were giving her extra attention, and he explained patiently and tactfully that he had found that his daughter was not so resistant to doing as she was asked, if she was asked politely instead of told what to do. I had already discovered this, though even asking politely didn't go too far with my kids. This pastor was a perfectionist, and having grown up with a perfectionist stepfather, I had a fair idea of how he had been dealing with his kids. I said with a grin, "Yeah, teenagers force us to grow up, don't they?" He looked embarrassed and didn't say anything in reply.
When I watched TV with Andrew, there was one Bart Simpson episode that I particularly enjoyed. It was when Bart was behaving like a daredevil with his skateboard and Homer was trying to stop him from taking such dangerous risks. He grabbed the skateboard out of Bart's hands when he was going to soar over a chasm with it, and he made the jump instead. Of course, he didn't make it. He ended up on the bottom of the cliff, and when the rescue crew was bringing him up on a stretcher, they dropped it and he got knocked about all over again. And there was something else in there about Homer leaping over a big tank of water that had sharks in it and other dangers, including a lion, which I howled about. Homer ended up in a body cast in the hospital next to a daredevil who was also bandaged to the hilt. The other guy grumbled about dangers and Homer said, "I'll tell you what's dangerous; raising kids!" I sure laughed over that; it was just too true!
My sister–in–law Sherry could not get over how much Andrew and I are alike. I brought a Patrick McManus book over to her place when my brother had his leg in a cast. Normally, he doesn't care to read, but I figured that, now he was chair–bound, he might find that book amusing. As the Bible says, a merry heart does good, like a medicine. Patrick McManus is a humourist who writes about hunting and fishing. Johnny didn't touch the book, but Andrew picked it up and sat in a corner, yuk–yukking over it.
He reminded me so much of what I was like when I was a teen. He wouldn't talk to me, but I knew what was going on with him. When I talked to him about it, and told him what I thought he was thinking and feeling, he sneered and retorted nastily, "Well, I'm not like you!" Of course, I didn't believe him. Later when he lived with my brother, he told Sherry, "My Mom really understands me."
We visited some of my relatives over the holidays when my kids came back to me that first time. They were all so excited to see the kids, and my sisters cried. They hugged me and said, "Lanny, it's a miracle!" None of my family are easy to talk to about the Lord, but God got His glory that day.
I was surprised by my family's reaction. I had not realized that they were hurting because the kids' Dad took them away and they didn't get to see them either. They were not comfortable being around their ex–brother–in–law. Some were afraid of what they might do or say to him, in their anger about how he was treating me, so they didn't go anywhere near him. My family never, ever talked to me about the children when the kids were gone. It hurt me deeply. I thought, "I guess it's no big deal to them. They have their own interests and just go on with life as usual."
It was similar to how it hurts people when a loved one dies, and nobody will mention their name around them because they are afraid the bereaved will cry. So what? Let them cry. Even if they cry, they will know that their loved ones matter to others, and are missed by them, and they won't feel so alone in their grief.
Another mistake made by well–meaning friends was when a married couple in my church urged me to forget about getting back together with my husband. Sitting across the table from me at The Pantry where we had gone for coffee, they said, "You're attractive. You can get married again and have more children." I felt like they had plunged a dagger in my heart, but I concealed my dismay, and they never guessed how their words hurt me.
My friends didn't know that I had my fallopian tubes cauterized after my daughter was born, which is a fairly effective means of birth control that rarely is reversible. But not being able to have more children wasn't what bothered me. It was the idea that I could forget Andrew and Heather, and that other children could possibly take their place. A child is unique and can never be replaced.
I had a friend and her little girls over for breakfast one day. My friend meant well when she told her girls, in a pitying kind of voice, "Give Lanny a hug because she misses her kids." That made me furious. In the first place, I always hated it when people pitied me because of what I was going through. Pity seemed like an anchor that could drag me down into depression, if I accepted people's pity. I needed empathy and understanding, good counsel and prayers. When people pitied me, I sensed that they felt I was dealing with a hopeless situation. It is only an atmosphere of faith that can generate joy and courage.
There was a cloying, sickening quality in my friend's voice, and I was extremely irritated by her insensitivity to her children, treating them like they were valued for what they could give, rather than for what they are, and also her presumption in thinking that they could, in any way, be a substitute for my kids. I snapped at her that I would hug the children because I liked them for their own unique personalities, not because they were standing in for anyone else. I hugged them and appreciated the tenderness of their hearts, but it did not make me feel like I missed my kids any less.
Another thoughtless remark was when people said in my hearing, "Children grow up so fast." Yes, my children were growing up fast, and I was missing out on their precious childhood. I didn't want people to feel uncomfortable around me, though, so I said nothing and kept any hint of my feelings from showing up in my facial expression.
God worked good things in my heart through the loss of my children. He is The Redeemer. People asked me to baby–sit their kids. At first, I didn't want to. I thought, "No! I want to look after my own kids, not other people's kids!" But my pastor said, during a service one Sunday evening, "If you have a chance to spend time with kids or with adults, spend time with the kids because you will have more fun."
I took his advice and he was right. Instead of going out with friends after church, I often babysat a pastor's or an elder's kids, so that they could go out with their wives and visit with friends, and I had a blast with the kids. I could be silly with them, imitating funny voices when I read stories aloud. They thought it was weird at first, but after a few minutes, they liked it.
Losing my children helped make me more sensitive to children and their needs. I had regrets about missed opportunities with my children when I lived with them, pursuing my own interests rather than paying more attention to them. Now I started taking more notice of children's individual personalities and became more interested in what they were thinking.
One time while waiting for a bus, I got into a conversation with another woman. We were reminiscing about a hurricane that hit Vancouver back in the 1960's, comparing notes on the damage that occurred in our neighbourhoods, and what we thought of the wind when it was blowing so fierce.
The woman said that there was a winter apple tree in her neighbourhood. The hurricane blew it down, but some of the tree's roots were left in the ground. She said that it actually worked out to be a good thing. The tree produced more fruit than ever before, and it was easily accessible. Before, the fruit was too high to reach, and when it fell, it got bruised hitting the ground. Now the neighbourhood kids could just walk up the trunk and help themselves to as many apples as they liked.
I thought, "Wow! That's just like what happened in my life. I had a hurricane. My husband left me, I had a nervous breakdown, he got custody of the kids, and then he took off with them. But the hurricane humbled me and it pruned me. Now I am more accessible to kids, and I have more to offer them."
Like that big, old tree lying on its side on the ground, my reputation did not look as attractive as it used to. I was now a divorceé, it was on my medical record that I had spent six days in a psychiatric hospital, stories had been spread about me, and there would always be people who would assume the worst about me, but there was more fruit of the Spirit in my life than what there had been before. In the end, it is steady progress in producing more fruit that counts, not how much others esteem us.
God showed me something really beautiful about children when I was boarding with a friend. Her little girls were getting ready for school one morning while I slept. I had to get up at 8:00, and it was just a few minutes before my alarm clock was about to go off. While I was drowsing, I heard the girls laugh and, in my spirit, I saw their laughter drift up the stairs like a sparkling cloud. It floated into my room and settled on me like a benediction. I immediately got a revelation that children's laughter is a type of intercession.
This links in with how Yehoshua said that out of the mouths of babes and sucklings, God has perfected praise to paralyze the enemy and the avenger. I thought, "No wonder satan hates children so much that he urges people to abort their babies and get sterilized. He's afraid of children!" Yes, and he works hard to make children miserable, so that he can make them bitter and quench their joy. Their joy is painful to him and limits him in the evil that he can do.
I concluded that people should have lots of babies, and wait on the Lord to help them to provide for their kids, and to give them the wisdom and the patience to raise their children in such a way that they have lots of occasions to break out in innocent and happy laughter. It would reduce the evil that goes on in the world. After all, it isn't a large world population that is the cause of poverty. It's greed and other types of selfishness. The Bible says in Proverbs 14:28, "In the multitude of people is the king's honour: but in the want of people is the destruction of the prince." When a leader has more people, he has more possibilities of someone coming up with wholesome solutions for the country's problems.
It sure is a shame that some adults find children's laughter to be irritating when they are playing and tell them to be quiet. It isn't the kids who need to be quiet. It is the adults who need to get quiet before the Lord. Then they would realize that the enemy has attached spirits to them, dragging on them like weights, making them feel irritable, tired, apathetic, contemptuous, etc., towards children. Yehoshua said that we need to take heed that we do not despise these little ones; we need to be respectful and attentive. Staying home to look after one's children is a high and holy calling; it isn't any less important than being a company executive, or any other job that has a lot of prestige.
During that first week of our reunion, Heather tentatively suggested that she might be allowed to live with me. I thought that would be superb, but I didn't think that her father would let it happen so easily. I was wrong. He phoned and asked if I wanted custody of Heather. I jumped at the chance and hardly dared to breathe for a month, until after they had returned from getting their belongings from Alberta, and I had the custody papers in my hand.
My ex–husband's wife had left him and returned to BC with her two daughters from a previous marriage. He looked after our children by himself for about a year. The kids weren't clear on how long he was separated from her. I was told that he drank quite heavily during that time, and the children had to help put him to bed sometimes. But he often rented videos for them to watch and bought them lots of snacks, which they didn't get very much of when their stepmother was around, so they were fairly happy that year. But now he was moving back to BC to get back together with his wife.
It was supposed that Andrew would decide to come and live with me after a while. He proved to be balky about leaving this Dad, so his father packed up his stuff and dropped him off at Social Services. Then Andrew came and lived with me for a couple of months, until it became apparent that too much damage had been done to the kids for it to be resolved without a stronger hand than mine to assist.
Raising teens at the best of times tends to be a hard task. James Dobson from Focus on the Family told of a young doctor who was interning at a mental hospital. He said that the intern thought he could reason a schizophrenic out of his illness. One of the patients believed himself to be dead. The intern asked him, "Do dead people bleed?" The patient scoffed and said, "Of course not!" The intern then took a needle and pricked the patient's skin, producing some blood. The patient's eyes popped out and he exclaimed, "What do you know?! Dead people do bleed!" James Dobson laughed and said, "That's what it is going to be like when you try to explain to your teenager why you won't allow them to spend $120.00 on a sweater."
He also said that the teen years tend to be like white water rafting. You just have to hold on until they are over. Yup. That's what it was like. It was a relief to go to work where I could expect to meet people who were rational and reasonable. For several years after my kids' teens, I felt shivers inside when I was in the neighbourhood where I used to live with them, and saw places that reminded me of those years.
James Dobson advised parents to make sure they get adequate sleep and eat healthy, so that they have strength to deal with any problems that come up. This is good advice, but trusting in God is essential, in order to get that sleep. Some parents do not go to sleep until their kids come home. My kids often did not come home for days. Even if I knew where they were and sent a policeman there, I couldn't get them to come home.
That happened one time. My daughter was just across the street, staying at a friend's apartment. I didn't want her there because her friend was a brat and her parents were former bank robbers who carried knives for protection. The parents knew that a policeman was pressing on their buzzer, but they also knew their way around the law and refused to answer the door. He didn't have any warrant and wasn't likely to get one.
I would not have slept for the next four years after I got my kids back, if God had not ministered to me out of Psalm 127:1 & 2 that first night when even a policeman couldn't bring my daughter home, "Except the LORD build the house, they labour in vain that build it: except the LORD keep the city, the watchman wakes but in vain. It is vain for you to rise up early, to sit up late, to eat the bread of sorrows: for so he gives his beloved sleep." While I meditated on this Scripture, I felt like God put His arms of love around me and cradled me while I fell asleep.
God also helped put things into proper perspective for me through an inner vision. As I was walking home from work one day, I was upset with how the children were behaving. I felt like I was walking against a hurricane of opposition. But I thought of how, eventually, the kids would yield to Yehoshua's love, repent of their sins, and behave better, and I would testify to people about how God helped me endure and brought me through to triumph. Yes, I would be faithful to God throughout all these troubles.
God interrupted my self–pity and melodramatic visions of glory with a picture in my mind. I saw an arena, like in a Roman coliseum. I stood alone in the centre of the arena on the sand, while my children stood together by the edge, looking numbly at me. I saw Yehoshua gently take me by the arm and lead me off to the side. Then He pulled Andrew and Heather into the centre of the arena, put His arm around them tenderly, and looked directly into my eyes. Solemnly, He said, "Lanny, these children are hurting. How can we help them?"
I finally realized it wasn't all about me. It wasn't about how I was hurting, and about what my children were doing to me, and how I would triumph, and have a great testimony to tell. My children were hurting. They were acting out their pain.
They didn't hate me. They weren't trying to hurt me. They were just sick of being over–controlled, and now that they could do as they pleased because I couldn't stop them, they wanted to go for it. I just happened to be in the way as their chariots were careening out of control.
I had to step aside and let them take their hard knocks, since the School of Hard Knocks was the only one that they would attend. It bothered me so bad that they wouldn't go to school. I ranted, "Do you want to be like me? Do you want to find it hard to get a job because you didn't finish school? Look at me! The only job I can get is to be a waitress!" I loved waitressing and was good at it, but it wasn't something I wanted to make a career of.
I figured that using myself as a visual aid would make the point, since they didn't appear to think much of me, but they just stared at me with blank looks. All that mattered to them was having fun in the here and now.
I cared nothing about what other people thought of how my kids stacked up next to theirs. After what my children had been through, it wasn't fair to compare them to children who were raised in a reasonably stable family. I measured them only by how much they were improving over what they were before.
I obtained free counselling when I applied for Victim Assistance to the Alberta government. This was for my daughter, but she refused to go after the first visit. It was offered to me instead and I jumped at it. The first psychologist helped me be patient, warning me that kids test our commitment to them. That was good, but I also needed some counselling about how to handle unruly behaviour.
When my sessions with her were over, I went to Mental Health and asked for a psychologist who was good at behaviour modification counselling. The head of Mental Health in my town referred me to the perfect counsellor. We had great rapport and she gave me very sound advice. It helped me make some headway. She also gave me one of the highest compliments I have ever received. When our string of sessions were over, she asked me, "Lanny, have you ever thought about adopting more children?" I told her that I thought I might like to do it someday. For the moment, though, the ones I had were all I could handle.
I applied for another counsellor for my daughter, but she wouldn't go, so the counselling was offered to me. We got into art therapy and it was terrific. One time I painted, while talking to the psychologist, and he drew my attention to my picture. I hadn't been paying hardly any mind to what I was doing. He pointed out that it had three mountains in it and asked me what I thought they represented. I knew instantly and said, "These are three times of trial in my life: when my husband left me, when I went through a nervous breakdown, and when he took off with my kids." The counsellor pointed out the trees on the mountains and said, "It looks like there is a lot of growth there." I had to agree. Those trials did bring a lot of growth into my life.
God showed me this also in a dream. In my dream, I saw a little house that got blasted to smithereens, but another house grew up in its place. It was bigger and nicer looking. That house got blasted to bits, too, but an even bigger house grew in its place. Then I saw a grey and white fence. Its surface looked like some type of abstract art that fit together like odd–shaped puzzle pieces. A hand with a chisel came along and scored the fence to vandalize it. Its surface reorganized itself and was repaired into a nicer looking fence. This happened again, resulting in the fence becoming more attractive than before. I woke up and pondered the dream, quickly realizing that it represented those major trials. I was continually being restored because I was resting in the Lord, offering Him sacrifices of thanksgiving and praise in each situation when offences came against me. I considered the houses in my dream and thought, "If the devil keeps this up, I'll be a palace!"
I talked to my children about their father, telling them both the good and the bad. I didn't tell them about all the bad stuff, of course. Some things they didn't need to know, but they did need to know enough in order to give them a balanced picture of what happened, so that they could make some sense of their lives. The kids didn't seem much interested in hearing the good stuff, but they got quite snarky about hearing any of the bad stuff. I said what needed to be said, though.
When I discussed it with my landlady, she said, "Yeah, I agree that you need to tell your kids the bad stuff, too. I know a woman who refuses to say anything bad about her ex–husband to her son, though he left her for another woman. The father has a new family and he has nothing to do with his son, but his son thinks his father must be wonderful and he blames his mother for the break–up of the marriage and gives her a hard time." Eventually the kid might meet his father and, if his father is still the same way as he was before, he might consider his mother to be a saint for not having said anything bad about his Dad. But it is very difficult for a single woman to raise a child on her own, so why should she make it harder than it has to be? It would not have been nasty of her to tell her son that his father had a roving eye and left her for another woman.
A child shouldn't be told things that they aren't emotionally equipped to handle, and some things they should never be told, even when they are adults, such as personal details about their parents' sex life. If a parent is troubled about something that went on in the bedroom, then they should tell it to a trusted peer. My mother told me too much about my father. Also, she never said anything good about him, which really bugged me. I asked her, when I was in my early teens, if she had anything good to say about him. She replied, "Lanny, if I could remember something, I would tell you." Later, when I found out the whole story, then I could understand why she felt that way.
One thing she did right, though. She never told me any lies about him, and I respected her for that. When I met my father, I realized that he was exactly like what my mother said he was. She told about how, when he was getting on a plane one time, a woman mistook him for Gregory Peck. Mom said, "And he never forgot about it!" Right enough. The very first time we met, within the first hour, he said, "Did you know that your Daddy was once mistaken for Gregory Peck?" (Yes, I did.)
Coming from a dysfunctional home, it took me a long time to figure out how one can honour their father and mother when a parent hasn't given their children much to be grateful for. God spoke to me one day about my father. He said, "Honour your father, not because he deserves it, but because I told you to do it." I went through a lot of confusion for a long time before I finally figured out that honouring one's parents doesn't mean that you pretend that they never made any mistakes and never talk about those mistakes when you need to get something off your chest. It means that, in spite of their mistakes, you acknowledge every good thing that they have ever done for you, and every good thing about them as a person. And if they give you good advice, even if they don't follow it themselves, you don't despise the advice. You take it seriously.
Also, you show them as much courtesy as you can. Some parents have to be spoken to bluntly because they just won't take your point otherwise, but we should always start off with tact. I couldn't be tactful with my father. When I did that, he would pretend that nothing was wrong and act like it went right over his head.
I had a really hard time trying to think of good things about him, but I could come up with a few things. He was very intelligent, he loved to fly his little, charter plane and was good at it, he had a sense of humour sometimes, and he liked kids. It was just his own kids that he despised because he despised himself, and he considered us part of himself. Also, he was afraid to love us because he was afraid of losing us. His mother died when he was seven–years–old and he never wanted to go through that devastating kind of pain again.
My son didn't talk to me much about how things were when he lived with his Dad, but my daughter talked to me. She had a lot of things that she needed to get off her chest, but I never let her run her father down. When she said something disrespectful about him one day, I said to her sharply, "No! You don't talk about your father like that! Remember he is your father." She wouldn't have been born if he had not had something to do with it, and life in this world is a gift that we should always be thankful for because our life on Earth gives us opportunity to glorify God.
God gave me a dream that showed me where my son was at in his feelings for his father. I saw him sitting on a chair and my pastor's wife was prophesying to him. She was telling him three things that were going to happen. It reminded me of what Samuel told Saul when he sent him home after their first meeting. Joan said, "And when these things happen, you will let go of your father." Andrew shrank back in the chair with a look of horror on his face. I approached him in the dream and said gently, "Andrew, letting go of your father doesn't mean that you don't love him. It just means that you no longer believe that everything he says is true." The dream showed me that Andrew idolized his father.
It took many years before that dream came to pass. Andrew was in his thirties before he read the Trials and Triumphs portion of my website, and in a phone call, he said, "I am sorry that I did not let you tell your side of the story before." He acknowledged that his father had been wrong about some very important things and expressed his anger at how much he had been set back by the way his father and stepmother had treated him, but he was working hard at catching up to where he wanted to be in life and making good progress.
He also told me at another time, "I know what love is because of you." And in an email, he spoke of how the way I had expressed affection to him taught him how to demonstrate affection towards the people he loves. These words were balm of Gilead to my wounded heart.
It never is a good thing to idolize anybody, not even our parents. We can admire and respect our parents without idolizing them. Idolizing someone means that we think our happiness depends on them. Sometimes when people achieve things that make their parents proud of them, and they treat their parents well, it isn't because they respect or love them. It could be that they are afraid of what their parents will do, if they disapprove of them. All idolatry is wrong. Our first loyalty should always be to God, even if what He tells us to do conflicts with what our parents want us to do.
As I said to Andrew in the dream, not everything a parent says is true. When a parent is frustrated, they might resort to using shame to get their kids to cooperate, such as telling them that they are lazy. Or an immature parent might tell their child that they are ugly, stupid, clumsy, etc. Tagging their children with those labels is like weighing them down with a ball and chain that can hold them back from becoming successful in their life. We have to decide whose report we will believe. Will we believe the report of the Lord, which says that we are made the righteousness of God in the Anointed Lord Yehoshua, or will we give our parents' words more weight? If we do the latter, we are giving our parents a higher place than God.
This can also hold true for our parents' opinions about other people and situations. My mother is a terrific homemaker. I used to look down on people, if their home was messy, because I was raised in a home that was always clean and neat. That was a wonderful blessing, but I wished that she played with us kids more often because those are the memories that stand out as my happiest times with her. I had to break out of the mindset that people who don't keep tidy homes are inferior to people who do.
I eventually accepted that not everybody is gifted the same, especially after making friends with a woman who does not have a gift for housekeeping. She has a great heart of compassion and has done far more for people to make a difference in their lives than most other people I know. I also met another lady who, though she was not a good housekeeper, she sure was interesting and I found it a lot of fun to visit her, regardless of what her house looked like. Her gifts tend to be more literary and artistic.
We can't let our parents' opinions about good people, whom they are mistaken about, cut us off from being friends with those people or inhibit us from making friends with people whom they would disapprove of for shallow reasons. Jonathan, the son of Saul, is an example of a man who could think for himself. He felt obliged to support his father's administration, but he did not share his father's opinion of David. Against his father's wishes, Jonathan helped save David's life and encouraged him when he was an outcast.
My kids kept me pretty busy. I never got into any heavy ministry at church. It was just easy stuff, like helping to look after the cappuccino bar, tidying the clothing room, assisting in the nursery, and working on artistic projects. I also praised the Lord in dance and the pastors considered that a ministry. I don't think that the pastors and elders figured I was fit for anything other than helps ministries, and dancing, or singing back–up, which I did for a little while, until I decided that I would rather dance. I couldn't get into too much trouble doing these kinds of things, but they didn't want me to have any teaching roles, except to teach Sunday School classes, if that had interested me. I knew how they felt and never bothered to ask for anything with more serious responsibility. Obviously I did not have much wisdom as a parent because my kids were out–of–control. It was kind of annoying to be looked down on because of how my kids were behaving, but then one day in church, the Lord showed me another side to the verses about qualifications for elders; the mercy side, as opposed to it being a rebuke.
He showed me that He did not necessarily reject people from being elders, or teachers, or counsellors, and other leadership ministries when their kids were out of control. Sometimes it is an EXEMPTION from ministry, rather than a rejection. I didn't have to feel guilty that I wasn't involved more deeply in ministry to others, because God wants us to make our own family our first priority in ministry. Those ministers who leave their families to go preaching can't possibly do so with His approval, unless their household is in order. Since those are the qualifications for elders and deacons, then pastors, evangelists, prophets, teachers, and apostles have to fulfill them, too. If their kids are unruly, they need to stay home and give their children the attention they need, until the children are secure enough that their parent can involved in out–of–town ministry.
What is the point of running all over the place, getting thousands of people saved, and then watching our own children burn in Hell because they were neglected when they were young and very vulnerable? God wants people to serve Him as families. When children still live under their parents' rule, all the family has to be in agreement about making sacrifices for the Kingdom of God. When they are grown up and have to take responsibility for themselves, it is a different matter. God doesn't let grown children hold us hostage and petulantly keep us out of ministry until they get their act together.
Though some people looked down on me because of my family situation, I felt relieved that it was okay with God for me to just pay attention to my kids and give them what love I had. Sometimes, that love got tested to the limits, but I found that the best way to deal with that was to be honest with God about what I was feeling. There were times when I screeched in my spirit to Him, "God, I hate these kids!" If they ever read this, they will know why I felt that way. I am laughing as I write this; I am not angry at them anymore. But I sure was angry then. I would think, "How can you feel that way about your babies, after not having them for so long?" Well, they sure pushed my buttons and God desires truth in the inward parts. But it wasn't like I was telling God that I gave up on them. I was just acknowledging that I had reached the limits of my love and needed His love to take over. And He did. He stretched my heart wider and filled it with His love.
One time I got really, really ticked because Andrew took four of my clean towels and put them on the bathroom floor before he cut his hair. He didn't want to sweep up afterwards, but those were my last clean towels and I had to walk three blocks to the laundromat to do laundry. I shrieked and shoved him out the door of my suite and threw the towels after him, telling him to shake them out. Then I locked the door. He shook out the towels and then sat down on the cement wall to have a cigarette, while I collapsed in an armchair and inwardly sounded off to God about how I hated my kids. He calmly asked, "Because Andrew used up all your clean towels?" I snarled back, "No! It's not just that! It's everything that they've done to me!"
I then went out to the kitchen where Heather was sitting at the table. She started laughing and telling me that the neighbours call me the cat lady. I snarled at her, "I don't care what your friends call me!" I was fed up with those little hoodlums, too. I didn't care if they thought I was a bag because I told them off when they misbehaved and called the police on them when they went too far. My kid, who seemed to have a constant case of PMS in those days, laughed and said good–naturedly, "No, no, no. Not my friends. The people who live upstairs, because you have those two black cats who are always sitting in the window." By this time, Mahershalalhashbaz had a little sister named Mehetabel. I calmed down. I couldn't believe it that my daughter was being so nice to me when I had given her a perfect opportunity to bite my head off.
I then went outside and Andrew was in a good mood, too! Night had fallen by now and he sat in the moonlight with his big, beautiful, hazel eyes shining, while I spoke about his father's lovely, mellow, Scots accent and how he taught me to say, "It's a braw, bricht, moonlicht nicht tonicht." I urged him to say it and repeated it for him. He smiled and repeated it back to me with perfect inflections. It was a soothing interlude in the turmoil of those days to have my kids be patient with me, a gift from my Heavenly Father because I had reached the end of my rope. Normally, He just gave me more rope so that I could be more patient.
God restored my soul in other ways, too. One day after work, I went down to Gastown and enjoyed a lovely, peaceful dinner by myself in an Indian restaurant. My nerves had been so frazzled with the kids' shenanigans. Doing something nice for myself helped repair them and get them ready for the next crisis. I probably would have fallen apart at the next report of bad news, if I had done the martyr bit that some women get into of always sacrificing for others and doing nothing for themselves.
My son protested one time when he saw that I wore Esteé Lauder foundation. He lifted the bottle aloft and exclaimed, "How much did this cost?" It was one of the very few things that I bought for myself that cost an extra bit of money for the sake of quality, but I never bought it unless I could also get a free gift pack, as well. I didn't defend the cost, though. I just replied, "Well, Andrew, how can I know how to be good to you kids, if I'm not good to myself?" He saw the sense of it and never gave me hassle again about spending money on myself.
In fact, when a bunch of bratty, teenaged girls pushed their way into our house, when I was at a New Year's Eve church service, and locked themselves in my bathroom, Andrew warned them through the door that they had better leave my make–up alone. They did, though they stole other things, but they were just some little, cheap things. I was relieved because I had just bought a new bottle of foundation. It was funny how the kids stared at me, from where they were sitting wide–eyed on the living room floor when I got home, and solemnly informed me, "We had a 'visitation' tonight, and it wasn't angelic."
There were some good times, in spite of conflict. A favourite memory is of when Heather and I settled down on my bed, so I could read her a Polish fairy tale that had beautiful illustrations. She was twelve and Andrew was fourteen. He yelled, "Wait! Wait!" and came running into the bedroom to sit on the other side of me and listen to the story. It was such a typical teen behaviour – unexpectedly charming.
Heather and I liked tea parties. When she was twelve, she would have the table all set and the tea ready for me when I got home from work, complete with little sandwiches and fruit cups, and I'd bring petit fours home from the restaurant. Sometimes she got dressed up for the occasion. It was so cute.
One time when she prepared some refreshments for a Bible study that was going to be held at my house, I learned a very important lesson. It was very hot that day when I was driving home from work, and I had no air conditioning in my car. Traffic was unbelievable. The street I lived on was jammed and it took half an hour for me to drive a couple of blocks. I felt serene, though, and prided myself on how calm I was, in spite of the heat and the traffic and how this delay was eating up time that I had counted on having to get ready for having guests over. The truth was that it really stressed me out, but I did not know it until I got home.
I walked through the door and saw that Heather had taken some plastic glasses that I had bought to serve juice for this Bible study, and had filled all twelve of them with about an inch of blueberry Jello. She had gotten the idea to make this Jello for the meeting and divide it evenly into the cups. It was a ridiculous idea, but typical for a child. I needed those cups for juice and I spazzed out on her, screeching about the waste and the extra work she had made for me, as I dashed the blue liquid from each cup into the sink. I was highly irritated that people were going to arrive soon, and I might not be ready for them on time.
A moment later, I was horrified when I realized what I had done. My little girl was trying to be helpful and I had discouraged her. I felt awful about behaving like such a bag. Then God spoke to my heart about how we behave with our family, the people closest to us, rather than to strangers, is what shows us what we are really made of. Most anybody can behave themselves properly when they want to impress people, but it is when we let down our hair, so to speak, that our true self comes out.
God desires truth in the inward parts, and I had to do some more work on being honest with myself and with God about my feelings, instead of pushing them down and denying them, opting instead to respond to situations in a way that I felt a Christian ought to respond. Denial can cause pressure to build up inside us like a volcano, and come spewing out at unexpected times. If we won't search our hearts to find out where we fall short in our inner strength, how can we pray to ask God for more patience, wisdom, courage, and whatever else we need to meet the challenges in our lives?
I enjoyed Heather's twelth birthday. I had a small party for her and three of her schoolfriends. I wondered what to get them for party favours. Then I saw a package of Groucho glasses with big noses and moustaches in the store. I thought, "They will probably think this is bizarre, but oh well." I bought them and tossed them in a pile on the table when the girls were sitting around it. They all looked nonplussed for a moment, and then everybody grabbed them and put them on. They liked them. They also liked dressing the cat up in clothes. Poor thing. He dived under the bed, but he didn't have a chance with four, little girls scrambling under there, reaching for him and dragging him out.
Heather complained a lot about my cooking. Her Dad loved to cook and he was better at it than me. The kids' stepmother apparently is a good cook, too, so the kids developed rather high culinary expectations. But I figured, "Hey, I'm busy working and they're old enough to cook for themselves." I was glad I could pass that task off. When I did cook, it was usually something that I threw together from whatever was in the cupboards. One of my friends, who was a cook, told Heather that was because I'm part Irish. Andrew didn't bother much about eating, even if I went to the trouble to make something special for the kids, and when I took them out to eat, no matter how much variety there was on the menu, all he ever wanted was a cheeseburger. I had to bribe him on Heather's fourteenth birthday to go to a Greek restaurant with us by promising him that I would take him to McDonald's afterwards.
I liked to buy cookbooks. Andrew said to me one day, "Why do you buy those things? You never use them." I liked to look at how the dishes were so artistically arranged in the pictures and to read interesting bits of information sprinkled through the books here and there about the history of cooking. I always liked history and I like to read. Whenever I bought those books, I always fully intended to cook up some of the recipes. But Andrew is right. I have hardly ever actually cooked up a recipe from any of my cookbooks, though I have had some of them for more than twenty years. Still, I keep them because you never know; someday I might feel the urge.
One day when Heather was griping about my cooking, I said, "Well, why don't we just pray that God will help Mom be a good cook?" She was desperate enough that she meekly bowed her head and prayed with me. A few days later, she started in on me again that I was a terrible cook. I said, "Oh, that's great faith that is." She opened her big, greenish brown eyes wider and said in mock seriousness, "Oh, I believe you will be a good cook someday; when you're in Heaven and you don't need to be!" I laughed and she said sarcastically, "It is more likely that you will be snatched by aliens than ever be a good cook." I laughed again at her wit, but a few days later, I had enough of hearing her running down my cooking when she was sitting at the table, going on and on about it, but not in a humorous way.
I looked at her sternly and said, "Listen, Heather, I can be a good cook, if I want to be, because I am usually good at everything that I am interested in, but I'm not interested in cooking." She put an insolent, skeptical look on her face, but said no more. I narrowed my eyes at her and thought, "Ooo, you are going to eat humble pie!"
Christmas was coming up. I still used to celebrate it back in those days, before I paid more attention to its pagan roots. I put up a lovely tree with purple and hot pink decorations and bought lots of presents for my kids, and got ready to cook Christmas dinner. I figured out my menu, then listed it in order of what had to be cooked first and for how long. Then I followed my plan. I made a beautiful gingerbread house and baked tons of stuff: three different types of tarts, a deep dish cherry apple sourcream pie, cookies of various shapes all decorated with icing, squares, and other baked treats. I bought sparkling peach and sparkling apple juices, and elegant, fluted glasses to drink from. I covered the table with a white cloth and loaded it with a big turkey, falling apart a bit, but a lovely brown and moist, mashed turnip and carrots, stuffing made from bread and potatoes and sausage, like how my father–in–law used to make it (my favourite stuffing), garlic mashed potatoes and gravy, broccoli and cauliflower with cheese sauce, creamed lima beans, a Christmas jello ring, a few other dishes, and an array of condiments.
I called the kids in to dinner and they stood there with their mouths hanging open at the sight of that feast. Heather asked, "Is this just for us?" I said, "Yes, you're worth it." They sat down to eat and, after a few mouthfuls, I smugly asked, "So, Heather, do you still say your mother can't cook?" She abruptly bit off a short, pouty "No," and set to work on her dinner. I think she was meeked. Her changed opinion didn't last, but it was sweet satisfaction to hear her say it at least once.
After dinner, I took the kids into the living room and they sat on either side of me as I read a French fairy tale called Melisande to them. The book had beautiful pictures and both kids were absorbed in the story and illustrations, regardless that they thought of themselves as big teen–agers. For a blessed half hour, I felt like an angel was standing over us, covering us with his majestic wings, sealing that sacred time of peace and love from interruption.
When the story was finished, the kids both sprang to their feet and headed out the door to go hang out with their friends. All those leftovers and they weren't around for the next week to help me eat them. That dinner had a bite. I had been so slim and feeling good about how I looked, but even with other people whom I invited over to help me eat the leftovers, I put on ten pounds. However, I don't regret cooking that dinner. It was fun to prove to my kids that I could cook, though afterwards I still avoided it whenever possible.
Our Mahershalalhashbaz was a blessing. Andrew had asthma and his Dad griped about me having a cat, but I weighed the pros and cons. It seemed to me that the emotional benefits outweighed the physical discomforts that he experienced. I moved into a two bedroom suite, after Heather came to live with me, and made her share my bedroom while reserving the other one for Andrew, to not only let him know that he had a place with me, but also to have a place free of cat hair to sleep in when he came to visit. I couldn't afford a bigger place and we were cramped. Heather hated sharing a room with me, but I think that I had the harder time of it; sometimes I had to wade through a sea of clothes that had been cast on the floor, until I bagged them all up and stuffed them between my bed and the wall.
Heather scoffed about keeping the other bedroom free from cat hair. She said, "Andrew takes the cat in there and lets him lie on his chest while he reads." Us girls had to bunk together, though. It would not have been fair to let Heather have everything she wanted and her brother to make do with what little I could spare. It was reassuring to know that the cat really wasn't that much of a problem for him, seeing as he was taking him into his room. I saw him at other times getting affectionate with the cat. He looked so cute cuddling the cat like it was a baby and burying his face in its soft fur.
One time, though, he was a bit mean to Mahershalalhashbaz. The cat was sitting at attention on a kitchen chair, watching Andrew, who was playing with a pencil, drumming the eraser on the table. Andrew was in a cranky mood and insolently bopped the cat a few times on the nose with the eraser end. The cat stared at him a moment with his big, round eyes, looking so wounded at this disrespect. He then jumped down and ran into the bedroom and hid under the bed. I ran after him and dragged him out, crying out his name and telling him that I was sorry. I cuddled him in my arms at the table, kissing him and crooning to him. Andrew looked at me scornfully and said, "You treat that cat like he's a baby!" I protested, "He is a baby!" In that moment, Andrew understood that animals have emotions and their feelings ought to be respected, wherever possible. A while later, I saw the cat again sitting on the chair in front of Andrew, each of them staring solemnly into the other's eyes, while Andrew softly rubbed the cat's nose by way of apology.
Though I loved that cat, I had to get him put down eventually. Heather was angry at me for a long time, but she wasn't the one who was cleaning up his messes. I told her that I would pay her a dime for every time that she cleaned the litter box. She went for it and remarked bravely while scooping away, "It's a dirty job, but someone's got to do it." After that one time, she decided it wasn't going to be her.
I bent over backwards trying to keep up with the cat's bad litter box habits. I bought plastic runner mats and covered my entire living room floor and the hallway; all the areas with carpet where he was allowed to run about. His litter box was at the end of the hall, but he quite often just used the mat around the litter box. It was a bit of a job to haul it up and wash it off. Finally, after four years of this, God gave me a dream that showed me that enough was enough and it was time to put an end to it. My kids were hardly ever home, and I had to get out and be with other people, rather than be a slave to my cat, working so hard to keep my home fit for human habitation.
Before when I thought of my cat dying, I always started to cry and would force myself to stop thinking about it. I figured that God would give me the grace when I needed it. It came through a dream where I was an army officer and I walked into the mess hall. I looked at a long table that was covered with salad, and it had dirty kitty litter sprinkled all over it. I said firmly, "Sargeant, get four men in here and clean up this mess!" They cleaned it up while I made some fresh salad and I actually enjoyed it. I thought to myself, "So this is what it feels like when people like to cook!" It was fun, but I have never felt it in real life. To me, it's a big chore to chop vegetables. I don't like to cook because it takes so long to prep and there are other things I rather do, but sometimes God suspends my natural aversion to this domestic activity and I can do it cheerfully.
I woke up with a grim feeling of determination, as I thought about my dream and kitty paws that messed around in litter boxes. Mehetabel never picked up Mahershalalhashbaz's dirty litter box habits, so I intended to keep her, but he had to go. I'd had enough of hauling that hall runner mat outside to disinfect it and hose it down, or swishing it around awkwardly in the bathtub. The grace to be strong had come. I sat him on my lap before I went for work and said, "You are a beautiful cat, so sweet and gentle, but human beings can't live in a place with pee on the floor. Jesus will explain it to you when you get to Heaven, and you will forgive me." He looked miffed. He knew that I wanted to be rid of him these last few months and had withdrawn his affection from me accordingly.
I took him back to the SPCA, after I got home from work. I bawled my head off when I explained the problem, and how long I'd had the cat, and how I'd had to cover my whole living room with plastic matting and wash the hall mat so often. I hoped that maybe someone would adopt him who would have more success with his problem. The man at the SPCA said it was unlikely that anyone would want a cat with bad litter box habits, as there were a lot of younger cats available.
He also said, "Normally we charge $20.00 to put them down, but you gave it a good try and we think you're suffering enough." They waived the fee, which was a good thing because I did't know that they charged for it and didn't bring enough money with me. They let me go in their lounge to compose myself enough to drive home. I was tense all the way home, but started to relax when I got to the last block. That was when I nearly had an accident and learned that I should never drive when an animal or a person that I loved has died.
It was also on the way home that it finally occurred to me why that cat was in the SPCA in the first place. I could never understand why anyone would give up such a beautiful animal to the SPCA. He was four–months–old when I got him. His previous owners must have discovered that he couldn't be trained to use a litter box. I think it was because he was an extraordinarily sensitive animal who always needed to have his owner around. I had gotten Mehetabel to keep him company, but he still insisted that I had to be in the house and paying attention to him. Messing on the floor was his way of letting me know that he was mad when I left the house or went to bed early. For a while, though, his intense affection was what I needed, until the stress of cleaning up after him exceeded that need.
It sure didn't help things with Heather that I had the cat put down. There are some things that kids will not accept explanations for, until they have had more experience in life, so I had to leave it at that. We still had Mehetabel and that helped, though she was not as affectionate as Mahershalalhashbaz. She missed him, for about an hour, and then realized that she had no more competition for my affections and was quite happy about him being gone.
I wrangled back and forth with my kids about chores, school, and curfews, but not about clothes or hairstyles or smoking. There were bigger issues to deal with. It was all very taxing emotionally. My daughter said to me when she was sixteen, "I bet you wish that we could just skip this part about being teenagers, don't you?" My eyes opened wide in pain and I exclaimed, "Oh no, Heather! I love teenagers!" She looked astounded.
Though teens can sometimes be really difficult to deal with, particularly when they have a chip on their shoulder, I love how they have such tender hearts and a sweet vulnerability about them in unguarded moments. It gave me pain to think of my children not getting to experience that precious time in life, simply because it was inconvenient for me to deal with their misbehaviour. Sure, they drove me up the wall, but I had faith that someday the good things I was trying to teach them would sink in and take root and eventually bear fruit.
I was never jealous about how well other families seemed to be doing. I was glad to see wholesome, happy families. I thought within myself, "Thank God the whole world isn't screwed up!" And my nieces and nephews were such a blessing. They hugged and kissed me when I visited their homes, and talked to me so sweetly. I thought, "Well, praise the Lord! Some teenagers like me!"
I agonized about how vulnerable my children were making themselves by not getting a proper education. Finally, God gave me peace with the thought, "Well, you know what? My kids are so smart that, once they get motivated, they will catch up on their education in no time. And if, in the meantime, they suffer consequences because they refused to go to school, I have to just let them take the consequences of their choices." I knew that the Lord could deliver them from their consequences, once they got sick of their own ways and were ready to do things His way.
My children stayed with members of my family, but even my brother and his wife couldn't help Andrew as much as they hoped to, nor my sister and her husband in regards to my daughter, never mind a single mother trying to cope with them on her own. I had to go to Social Services to place them in group homes, but I stayed as closely involved in their lives as the children would permit. Most of the time, that involved giving them money. I told them, "I'll give you $5.00 a week for an allowance, just because you're my kid. You don't have to do anything for it." Andrew was the balkiest about spending time with me, but he knew that if he let me come see him, he would get $5.00 out of it. As often as he let me, I drove 25 kms to where he was living in a group home out in the sticks for a ten minute visit, hoping each time that it would be longer.
Sometimes he let me stay longer and those were precious times. One evening as we sat outside and dusk was falling, I clung to him as he smoked a cigarette, and I wept as I confessed various ways that I had failed him. I said, "Andrew, I'm not perfect and I can't be all the mother that you need. Only God can be all the father and mother that a person needs, but I will try to be the best mother to you that I can be!" He said nothing, but he put his arm around me and gently patted my face to comfort me.
For a while, it looked like I was making some real progress with him, but then the government decided to not renew the contract for that home. Andrew had been quite happy there and was disappointed. It set things back for a while; he closed up again. But God was leading me, even if my son wasn't being very communicative with me.
One day I felt an urgency in my spirit that something was wrong and Andrew needed me. I drove over to his new group home and asked him if something was wrong. He said there wasn't and he didn't let me stick around for more than ten minutes. Years later, he reminded me of that time and admitted that he had been really depressed and had needed to see me. He said that after I left, he asked himself, "Now, what are the chances of that just being a coincidence?"
God didn't tell me everything that was going on with my kids. He knew that my nerves couldn't take it. When Heather nearly got killed in an accident, I had no inkling that anything was wrong. She was sitting with some friends in a car on a mountainside when a truck came along and sideswiped them. The car rolled down the embankment several times before it came to a stop. One of the kids said, "There's gas leaking; we've got to get out of here!" The three of them piled out and a few seconds later, the roof caved in. They climbed up the embankment and, when they reached the road, the car exploded. When Heather told me what happened, I felt like I wanted to collapse both with relief and with horror. It was reassuring, though, to see that God was protecting my child's life, even when I was unaware that she was in danger.
I found out eventually what had led to their return. Their father had always been careful to collect the mail by himself. One day, he became lax and had the kids with him when he went to their locked mail box. There was a package from me and the children got excited when they saw it. Their father looked at their eager faces and finally relented at the realization that, in spite of his efforts to turn them against me, they still cared about me.
His wife didn't want to look after them, which may have been one of the issues as to why she left him. She wanted him to put them in a foster home. He wasn't so cold–hearted as to put them into foster care, without first letting them have a chance to see if they could live with their mother.
Yes, there were big problems to deal with when I got my children back, but though a scary four years followed their return, it was easier to deal with that than total separation from them. I had acne in my thirties and wondered why I still got it when I was well past puberty. One of my friends said that it was caused by stress. I supposed it was financial stress, but after the children came back to BC, my acne cleared up in a month. I also realized that I'd had a tight coil of tension in my stomach all the time that they were gone, but I didn't know it had been there until after the children returned and the tension melted away.
Praise the Lord! He is good. Yehoshua never fails! I continue to stand on another Word that He gave me when my children were in Alberta. Isaiah 54:13, "And all your children shall be taught of the LORD; and great shall be the peace of your children." In Yehoshua's Name, so be it!
Copyright © 2010, Lanny Townsend
Page modified by Lanny Townsend on August 4, 2016
Scripture references on this website are closely paraphrased from e–Sword's King James Bible.