Gary Clark, NFL Champion; Self Limiting Fears and Me

The year is 1970 and I am sitting in Mr. St. Clair’s 9th grade English class at Rollingcrest Junior High in Hyattsville, Md.  Patty Philpott is sitting to my right and I am attentively listening to students give their oral book reports.  The book report is easy for me as I have always loved to read.  Since the age of 7, reading could transport me out of the house where my father had started paying too much attention to me.  My escape was books and Jerry Lewis,  and at the time and unbeknownst to me, the Lord.  I love all three to the depths of my soul, Christ first.

Anyway, back to 1970 and oral reports.  As I watched a classmate give his report, I began feeling nauseated, sweaty and fearful, as though 25 catholic nuns, led by Sister Borromeo from St. Anthony’s Catholic School in northeast D.C.,  were marching through the door.  All 25 nuns were holding torture devices, such as rulers, magic markers and they are rubbing their thumbs and forefingers together as though preparing for a championship cheek pinching and ear twisting contest.  Now this is fear with no option of flight.  Again, I am digressing.

As I am listening, or attempting to listen, to my classmate speak I drift away until I hear Mr. St. Clair say, “Suzanne, are you prepared to give your report?”  Losing all concern for a failing grade, I simply replied, “No”.  Those sitting near to me, particularly Miss Patty Philpott, can see the cover of my report neatly printed with, “Johnny Got His Gun” by Dalton Trumbo.  The room was quiet until a loud and whiny voice said, “But, Mr. St. Clair, Suzanne’s report is right in front of her”.  This was not my first involvement in Miss Philpott’s school life and I think my life-long aversion to blond women with bouffant hair, blue eye shadow, and immaculately dressed white women began.  Mr. St. Clair said, “Are you prepared?”  Despite the huge elephant sitting on my desk, I again replied, “No”.  In the pause before Mr. St. Clair called the next student, Miss Philpott looked back and forth between me and the teacher repeatedly, without disturbing a single hair!  Miss Philpott was wildly popular and my apologies if she should read this and take offense to my perception of these events.

The previous event indirectly involved Patty Philpott and Dee Dee Catina and her friends.  While in PE class Dee Dee and friends had taken Patty’s dress and stuffed it deeply into the Kotex machine in the bathroom.  Somehow and within seconds rumor started though out the entire student body that I had ratted Dee Dee to Ms. McCollum our 9th grade PE teacher.  I had already learned a healthy fear of authority figures thanks to those misdirected devotees to God and the Catholic Church, starting when I was 5 years old.  I would have never approached a teacher!  As the day passed, I was told I had to meet Dee Dee Catina in front of the school when classes were over so that Dee Dee could tear my skinny limbs asunder and pull out my considerable mop of frizzy and kinky hair.  Just FYI, hair pulling  is an important technique as taught in Girl Fighting 101.  The fight never occurred thanks to a tiny, but tough dynamo named Delores Richter Shaut, who remains my friend to this day.  Delores went down in girl fighting history as a peace negotiator.

You may wonder why this trip down memory lane?  Despite a successful 60 year abstinence from public speaking and developing  a lack of concern of others’ opinions,  I learned last night, “Damn, I’m still that chicken-shit girl from 9th grade”!   Last Thursday I had received phone calls from Samantha Bowie of J.G. Wentworth Home Lending and Tessa Wilborne of The BlackFin Real Estate Network to inform me that I was a winner in the FreeTicketsGiveAway founded by NFL Legends and Super Bowl Champions.   Later in the day, Gary Clark of NFL fame, 8 year receiver for the Washington Redskins and two time Super Bowl Champion, called me.   He is a former member of the infamous  Hogs and The Posse, certainly infamous in D.C.  He was kind and friendly spending many minutes just talking to me.

Throughout my life I have learned to no longer be concerned about others’ perception of me.  I am honest and outspoken, sometime to a fault.  I am eccentric and at times and can be very irreverent.  People sometimes think that I am….gasp….weird!  Sometimes words just fall out of my mouth, totally forgetting my mother’s frequent admonitions, “Jesus Christ, Suzanne, think before you speak”.  I can be brash, profanely opinionated and I love to tell one liner dirty jokes.  All who know me well know Little Johnny’s response when his teacher asked him to use the word “dictate” in a sentence.  I had overcome my fears of what others think of me, until last night.  My excitement slowly turned to fear when thinking about being videoed realizing that I would be talking to strangers, people who don’t know my peculiarities.

Yet, when talking about God, I can speak and write without problems because He is guiding me and He is with me.  I can reveal very personal events from my life that led me to Him without any problems.  He guides my hand as I write and give me words to speak.  Earlier today He prompted me to express my feelings in writing.  It occurred to me while more than half way through this blog, that I did not have the faith nor ask Him to guide me this time.  How very blessed I am to have this opportunity to glorify The Great I Am, God.  Last night and this morning I had forgotten, “I can do everything through him who gives me strength”.  Phillipians 4:13   My earthly fear totally eclipsed my faith!  After some thought and hearing His still, small voice, God and I are okay with this earthly mistake.  Life is a learning venture, even at 60.

Does God give us opportunities to speak of His love?  Absolutely!  I inconsiderately texted Mr. Clark at 10:30 this morning, the same time I was supposed to have been there.  Mr. Clark was very kind and patient in his texted responses, ultimately telling me, “Not a problem”.

I thank God for the opportunity to still glorify Him.  I thank Mr. Gary Clark for his kind and patient nature. To him I own my sincerest apologies.   (I thank Patty Philpott too, lol.)  And I thank you for your time.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Redemption and Healing of a Broken Spirit

I wrote this story a couple of years ago, so for some, it may sound familiar.  I would be so very neglectful to not share this with as many as I can.  A story of the healing of a broken spirit, redemption, love of God and more importantly, His love for man.  I believe that each of us are placed on this Earth to serve a purpose.  My beliefs are that each of us are gifted by God and we utilize those gifts by serving His children, thus bringing a huge smile to God’s face.  I honor Him, by telling my story.

Most times I’m a very private person.  Recently, I shared with someone some of what the Lord has done in my life. It was pitiably short of all He has done. With the miracles, at times supernatural, He has shown in my life, I realized that I was redeemable and with His personal interventions in my life, I developed an intimate and personal relationship with my Lord. To not share these events would be so neglectful of the Lord’s desires because in sharing I may be serving someone in need, thus serving Him. And please understand, this story is not to illicit pity or sympathy.  It has become so clear in my mind that my relationship with Christ is specific to me, my past, my sins and my heart. As a good parent, He relates, disciplines, redirects and guides me differently and specifically, than He would someone else. He knows my heart, motivates me, nudges and even gifts me differently than others. Because of His specific love for me, no longer do I ever feel that I’m wasted space nor desire to be invisible. No longer do I feel guilt nor feel “abortion” is printed on my forehead when I go to church. I no longer feel the pastor or the elders can see into my sin filled miserable being. I no longer feel uncomfortable or feel shame interacting with my christian brothers or sisters.  In some ways, I feel it is because of my sins, my hurts and my past that my Lord loves me so! He knows my heart completely.

I started school when I was five years old. My first day of school, I was slapped by the nun, humiliated in front of my classmates for the infraction of thinking I could get up to go to the bathroom. This is how a child’s spirit works. I never told my mom because I knew – I knew the nun would not have slapped me unless I was bad. That began seven years of teasing and loneliness while at St. Anthony’s. When I was seven years old my father sodomized me for the first time. He stopped when I was twelve when his molestations became my punishment and not, what he had assured me in the past of his “special love”. I was broken. Now listen to this.  What is alarming to me is there is no particular look to children who are broken. They walk in and out of our lives. Those who are around children, please be vigilant. As a result of that first episode, my life-long unreasonable fear of dentists, I required dentures by the age of fifty-five. What I remember is my father putting his rubber coated, red pocket knife between my teeth and telling me to bite down on the knife and that would take the hurt away. My mom, who was perplexed, took me to the dentist who then pulled the numerous loose “baby” teeth. A memorable experience for a seven year old. After days of not sitting and rubbing my bottom, my mom, who was a nurse, took me to a physician colleague who diagnosed me with pin worms for my excoriated and inflamed bottom. My child brain perceived the dentist as a continuation of my physical pain. As an adult I remembered frequent childhood dreams of flying which were incredibly pleasant and peace filled. It was during my intense christian therapy with Sue McHenry and my Lord, that those childhood dreams were in actuality the episodes where I disassociated. I knew then that in spite of my fear of heights, my lord took my girl hand and led me out the window to soar above my house, Turkey Thicket and into areas beyond N.E., D.C. There were so many trees and some of them I could actually reach out and touch the leaves! I attended St. Anthony’s until grade seven. Because of the nature of small schools, the humiliation of first grade, and efforts at being invisible, made me a target for teasing by some. Then, given the nature of my father’s abuse, I lost control of my bowels while sitting at my desk in second grade. It was a difficult seven years. When I was twelve years old, my mom left my dad and we moved to Maryland where I attended public school. I knew by that age that I was worthless and had no value or place on this Earth. I was broken and filled with shame and at one point while in high school, I considered suicide. My brokenness was complete when my father used our “special love” as a violent punishment for something I had done to anger him. I knew my shame intimately.

While in public school I did make some friends. By the time I graduated high school I had been drunk many times, experimented with drugs, placed myself into a situation where I was raped at sixteen, then the subsequent promiscuous behavior, that most of us now know, is directly related to self-worth and a huge empty spirit, a void,  that was begging to be filled. I, like many, didn’t know that the void could  be filled with the love of Christ. I spent many adult years drinking with periods of sobriety, particularly with the arrival of Annie. Several attempts to stop completely would work for awhile. But you see, until one knows better, one will continue to fill that void with what we know. Somewhere, during that period I discovered pain pills when treatment for dental issues began. When Annie was in second grade, my mom, in her own eloquent way asked, “Jesus Christ, Suzanne…when are you going to get that child to church?” In previous years, I sought solace with the only church I knew, the Catholic Church, but still I felt a huge void. My trust in others was nil. Relationships with others were few and mostly superficial. I didn’t like letting anyone in because to do so was to give them power to hurt me.

Raising my son, Stephen, was challenging, particularly when I realized as a mom, I could not fix his hurt. Despite his mental illness, his profound and incapacitating depression, he managed to get a masters degree and go on to positively touch many friends’ and students’ lives.  Listen to this…even in his homosexuality he was able to exhibit the Lord’s love for others! God uses everyone! Even homosexuals, women with past abortion, people in sin! That is the very nature of our Lord. How do I know? He told me and showed me first hand. Our God can do anything! My son’s last year or so was incredibly difficult for him. The last 3 months he was so profoundly depressed that he would have episodes of complete confusion. In that period I would find myself on my knees begging, in tears, God, please heal him! I found my son’s body one Saturday morning on March 17th, 2012, and he would not wake up. As difficult as that day and experience was, I realized that my God did indeed heal him and bring him to his optimal creative, humorous and loving self. I cannot wait to see that Stephen! I know he is by the Lord’s side, despite, what some might believe,  his homosexuality.

As I was saying, when Annie was 7 we started attending South Potomac Church, in White Plains, Md.  It felt like coming home! I was still drinking, not very heavily and using pain pills occasionally. Within a few months I stopped drinking. I was experiencing a measure of self-worth and working hard to be a good mom. We call Annie our special blessing. Tony and I had been married 12 years and he had retired from the police department. I knew in my heart that the inability to get pregnant was of my past abortions and that I had forfeited any right to bear children. When I did get pregnant, we were overjoyed. When He didn’t take Annie away as a baby and small child, I thought, “Maybe He doesn’t punish His children that way.” I have learned through the ensuing years that the very essence of God is love. With Sue McHenry’s guidance, I have learned that trials and sufferings occur in our lives for four reasons. 1) teaching, 2) redirection, 3) discipline (if still in our sin), and 4) for His glory. I found a particular scripture, that even in my deepest pit of depression, gave me comfort, but most of all HOPE! As every person who has ever been in that pit know, “HOPE” is the only light. That scripture is 2 Cor. 1:5: “For just as the sufferings of Christ flow over into our lives, so also through Christ our comfort overflows.” I realized that in my sufferings, I was more Christ-like than at any other time of my life. Isn’t that what we strive for, to be Christ-like, as much as it is humanly possible?  I knew with a certainty that His comfort would come.

Near the end of 2007, I began three years of intense therapy. God revealed Himself within the first three sessions. I had ceased all addictive substances, I felt comfortable and safe with my therapist, Sue. My first memory revealed itself of sexual abuse, then began my loving and healing relationship with my Lord. I can say without reservation and with boldness, I have a one-of-a-kind, intimate personal relationship with Him. I know that I can 100% trust Him to always be there and intercede in my life His own way and trust that He knows what is best for me. He showed me clearly that mankind is fallible and because of that, even my loved ones may hurt or disappoint me. He showed me that man’s fallibility was OK, in that we will always make mistakes and hurt others and/or ourselves intentionally or unintentionally. He will never hurt me. Knowing this in my heart and mind, man’s fallibility will never have the depth and power to hurt me as it had in the past.

During my years of therapy, occasionally I would have awake dreams, or visions, so to speak. It is difficult for me to describe these experiences in words to convey them adequately. This particular experience I can recall clearly and with deep emotion because to me, it actually occurred. I was looking down into a dimly lit room on a little girl about 9 years old. As I got closer and came to stand behind her, I realized the little girl was me. She was very sad and tearful, but not actively crying. A short distance away stood a man and not particularly tall. This man, as she got closer, was wearing an off white, weaved gown to his sandaled feet. He had a brown belt tied low on his waist and his hands and arms were low and close to his body with his palms toward me. He was looking directly in my eyes and although I walked slowly to him, I was eager to get close to Him. When I finally stood before him I looked upward and into his kind brown eyes. I could see immense pain as his eyes began to well into tears. This 9 year old was struck with awareness, then she whispered, “He did this to you too”, I began crying and buried my face into his stomach as I envisioned my father assaulting Him too. He placed His hands on my shoulder and hugged me. I remember clearly the softness of his gown, the warmth of His body, and His warm breath. I remember feeling pain for His sufferings by my father to the depths of my soul. I felt His comfort through His thoughts of specific love for me and His healing and over abundant love for the child I once was. As the adult me witnessed this, I felt all the times He was with me throughout my life. I felt that despite my sins; past, present and future, that He will always love me specifically, maybe even because of my sins. He knew me so well that I KNEW His love was specific for this weak, worthless and broken being. In my sin, He even loved me more! I can never forget this intimate time with Christ. My Lord has loved and taught me so much. One day while reading some scripture, I came across Matthew 24:37, “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone those sent to you, how often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you were not willing.” After reading this I began to cry, feeling a measure of His pain. In my thoughts, He was beyond hurt and was despairing. My saddened Lord, who only wanted mankind to see and feel His enormous love and His sacrifice for us. It’s as if we rejected the most precious gift ever offered.

So, here I am 59 years old, having survived some traumatic experiences, yet thanking, praising and loving the Lord. He has gifted me with these experiences in order to serve Him through seeing and/or feeling the pain in others. He has placed opportunities for me to be blessed. As Paul says in 1 Cor. 3:12-15, “If any man builds on this foundation using gold, silver, costly stones, wood, hay or straw, his work will be shown for what it is, because the Day will bring it to light. It will be revealed with fire, and the fire will test the quality of each man’s work. If what he has built survives, he will receive his reward. If it is burned up, he will suffer loss; he himself will be saved, but only as one escaping through the flames.” There are many times Christ has been active in my life, some on hindsight. Today, I recognize that there are no such things as coincidences, that these are opportunities are “God nudges”, and that Jesus walks with me every moment of everyday. Sometimes He smirks at my irreverent humor, sometimes He convicts me at my words, sometimes He smiles and may even laugh at my jokes, but all the time He is with me and in me, filling that long ago void in my heart.

A Mothers’ Love

Let me preface this note with the understanding that I know I was blessed with a good and loving mom. I know that that is not the case for everyone and my heart breaks for you. I can only share the fact that my Dad was greatly lacking in the father role and that even to this day, certain songs, stories or friends who tell of a loving dad, can bring tears of regret, because I am acutely aware of what I so sorely missed out on. Our God has a way of softening those losses if we let Him. He is the perfect parent. Sometimes I can close my eyes and think of His love and sacrifice, and I can feel His warm hug.

For many years I had regrets regarding the numerous misbehaviors as a daughter. Misbehaviors is a mild term regarding my past and how those affected my Mom and how deeply I worried her and hurt her. She was not a perfect Mom, but I knew she always loved me. I knew how much she sacrificed to raise the four of us on her own, working straight midnights as a nurse. She managed to cook dinner every night and tuck us in at bedtime.

I was so also blessed that before she died in June, 2000, we were close and she had observed my life becoming stable, with a new career, the amazing birth of Annie and my cessation of alcohol. She could see in me the beginning of the positive results of her self-sacrifice and love.

It wasn’t until I lost my son to an accidental overdose almost 3 years ago at the age of 35, that I truly understood the measure of a mother’s love. Stephen was, by no means, an easy child to raise. There were many dissappointments, behavior issues and many sleepless nights. As he grew more mature, my worries only increased. His behaviors improved yet watching him struggle with profound depression and, as a mother, not being able to take the struggles away, were very painful. I can say without a doubt throughout those years and those dissappointments and yes, anger too, I never stopped loving him. I never loved him less. I would still do whatever a mother could do to protect him, care for him, sacrifice for him. I think in some ways that unconditional love is similar to God’s love for us.

No matter what we do as a child of God, He will always love us, regardless of our sins, our past behaviors and any hurt we have caused Him. In fact, I think He may even love us more with our past “misbehaviors” because He saw our struggles. He sees the desires in our hearts to please Him. He knows when we are powerless over addictions and certain behaviors and waits quietly for us to call on Him.

In so many ways I felt the same about Stephen. I knew his heart, how good it was. I knew his struggles, his desires, and at times, his powerlessness over them. I knew what he would do to feed the addiction. I had an innate and deep understanding of who my son was, an understanding that is not present in any other type of relationship. In fact, throughout the years there were some who believed I enabled Stephen. I even questioned myself! A few weeks after his death, it struck me…if I did enable, which I believe I didn’t, I don’t regret a moment!!! I would wager that most mothers who love their suffering child feel very much the same way.

God nudge me to write this note for children who are wondering, worrying or perhaps harboring unforgiveness for themselves for what they perceive is unforgiveable in their mother’s eyes. In fact, I am sitting in a store parking lot as I write. I can assure you, as God has assured us, that you were forgiven long time ago…that moment you had love in your heart. I can also assure you that a mother and child love have no boundaries, most importantly, no self-made boundaries.

“Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails.” 1 Cor. 13:4-8

I hope and pray that this note helps to ease a worried Mother and/or child.