Solitude and Safety in a Pine Tree

It is Saturday, January 23, 2016, and I am watching the effects of the winds that gusts over 60 MPH from a Nor’easter called Jonas.  Manklin Creek is swollen well above our little dock and the pine trees are swaying.  Although we are constantly sweeping pine needles from our floors and deck, I love them.  They remind me of the solitude and safety I have sought all of my life  Although I risk and fear revealing too much of myself, I write because I have too.

One would think that growing up in N.E., Washington, D.C. in the 60’s,  there would be little opportunity to find places that offer solitude.  I had many places and the only constraint was to be home before dark.  I found refuge in the beautiful gardens and cloistered areas of the Franciscan Monastery, even sometimes sneaking down the steps to the monastery catacombs.

Across the street from our house there was a patch of bamboo that I would go into and pretend I was Tarzan.  In our backyard there was a bush with branches that grew upward, then downward to the grass.  I would crawl to the trunk of the bush mindless of the bugs and worms, believing I was totally hidden from the world.

There were a couple other places I found, but my favorite place to this nine year old’s perspective, was a huge pine tree across the alley from our backyard.  Once I realized I could climb that tree to what seemed as high as the sky, I knew true safety and solitude.  I am now certain that my Lord’s hands guided me many times from branch to branch.  Other than musing upon a bird’s nest with eggs, then chicks one spring, I can’t recall what my thoughts were.  What I remember so distinctly was how safe I felt.  My child mind had already blocked the unpleasantness in my life, but not the need for feeling safe.  Unfortunately, and without cause, I still find safety in my solitude.

I remember asking my therapist, Sue, of three years, how does such egregious moments so completely be erased from memory.  This gifted woman of God gently explained to me that the events were so horrendous that my child brain could not cope and immediately blocked them.  Then, add that the person who a child loves and trusts above all, my father, was the one who violated the innate needs of this child.  Thus, blocking.  Sue was absolutely correct.  A couple years ago as I was reading through my journals from that period of therapy,  I came across an event written in my own hand, that I had blocked yet again!  Reading the details made the event fresh.  I can say that in addition to memory recall, I also experienced physical recall.  Without adding graphic detail, the discomfort from the act of sitting was very real and lasted over a week.

I need to add, and probably the most important is that throughout therapy, I was never afraid.  Blown away and hurt, yes.  In addition to the fact that my dad was deceased, I had the tangible presence of Christ right next to me.  So tangible, in fact, I could feel His soft clothing, the warmth of His breath and see the tears in His eyes.  As lunatic as this may sound to some, it is fact.  Even if it were my imagination, and it was not (emphatically stated) He saved me.  He saved me as a child and as an adult from addiction.  He saved me from perpetuating the abuse with my own children.  He made Himself tangible, a physical presence, in my life.  Because of this I need to speak about it.  *Most importantly, there may be others in pain and are suffering, who also can seek His presence and find comfort, as I did.  Surely, He is there….He was there for this despairing and sinful soul.

Don’t get me wrong by any means, I am still far from healed.  In spite of my real experiences with Christ, I sometimes forget to reach for Him when feeling confused.  He loves me anyway and I suspect I won’t feel completely healed until I am by His side in Heaven.

I pray that my need for solitude dissipates because, even at 60 years of age, I only feel my safest in my solitude.  There is a true sense of physical and emotional desperation when I feel the loss of this solitude and need to seek it.  I take comfort in knowing that Christ also sought solitude in the mountains.  Unfortunately, this can be difficult on my family and loved ones.   There are not enough words of gratitude to those who understand this.

I thank you, Lord, for my memories that give me clarity and understanding of this soul You created and prepared for service.  I know that in doing so You have suffered the same indignities that I have suffered.  You have always been in and with me.  This thought broke my heart, and I sobbed, when I first realized this years ago.  You have suffered not only for our salvation, but You have and continue to suffer every indignity and torment that Your children endure.  I praise You for that, for always being with me and I will speak of Your love forever.  And I thank You, Lord, for pine trees.









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.

The Beat Cop

My heart is prompting me to tell a story and I hope I’m not too long-winded for you.  With all the bad press regarding police officers, and I’m sure there are a few bad apples as in any profession, I decided to tell my story. I want to tell you of a cop, a flashlight and a 10 year old girl.

When I was 21 years old, I began working for the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Washington, D.C. and continued to working there for the 6 years.  I was surrounded by police officers, detectives and a variety of law enforcement officers of every sex, ethnicity, religion and age in almost every branch of the Metropolitan Police Department.  I was a young woman who interacted with those who had experienced almost every inhumanity man can think of, on another.  It was the time when DC meant Dodge City and it was “open season” on police officers.  Murders were over 500 per year, thus the distinction of being known as, “The Murder Capitol”.  I often received sage advice concerning my safety, such as, don’t park next to vans, park under lights, have car keys in hand and survey your scene;  was among some of the wise advice. Even after Sgt. Tony Silva from 7th District proposed and with a resounding yes,  Detective Kanjian, who worked in the Career Criminal Unit as a seasoned investigator, and also a man of few words, in his deep gruff voice, advised, “Girl, don’t marry no roller”, then shaking his head.  I have to laugh whenever I remember Kanjian speaking those words.

But really this story is about a little girl who lived in N.E., Washington, D.C., in the old 12th Precinct and a cop who walked a beat. I wish he were still around to tell him thank you. I had horrible insomnia as a child.  I would stare out of our 2nd story window looking down onto Randolph Street anticipating the arrival of my father with very mixed emotions.  Little girls love and want to please their fathers, yet I was also afraid of mine.  Sometimes he would come home late at night and there were many times he did not come home for days.  But almost always, on the nights at that window, there was a policeman walking his beat who noticed me and said hello by flashing his flashlight on and off. The first time he did this, I was a little scared. Perhaps little girls should not be up so late. Just the act of him saying hello in such a specific way made me smile and feel valued. I’m not sure how long this happened, but I do know that after a while I anticipated this policeman’s hello instead of my father. I’m almost 60 years old now and this incredible memory is still capable of positive emotions and smiles when I think of this officer’s “light” and the significance he brought to this little girl. It is in those little things that we can impart the touch of God, even without knowing it.