Garden of Memories

Mad Hatter: “In the gardens of memory, in the palace of dreams, that is where you and I will meet.”

Alice: “But a dream isn’t reality.”

Mad Hatter: “Who’s to say which is which?”

Alice Through the Looking Glass

“We meet everyday in the gardens of my memories.”

“I enjoy our time together among the sunflowers.”

“I watched a documentary the other night. I felt as if I was watching our, your, story.”

“Will you share?”

“Of course, but first remember your words, ‘It’s like everyone is seeing how I’ve been feeling this entire time on the inside of my body cause now its affecting the outside of my body. I’ve been falling to pieces for years inside and now everyone can see what I’ve always been feeling. It sucks.’ Remember?”

“I do.”

“In this documentary, a man was describing his story of childhood trauma and finally getting the help he needed. He finally found a doctor who stopped labeling him. The doctor told him, “You are this way because of something that happened to you. You have a story that’s not been diagnosed.” He was told the labels didn’t make sense, trauma victims blame themselves, and the arch enemy, the fiend is the truth, but your reality is not allowed to be seen and to be known, and that is the true trauma. I cried because he was describing you. So many memories flooded back. Memories of desperately searching for someone, anyone, who would stop labeling you, who would see you, listen to you, help you heal. Then the words that it’s not mental illness but mental injury…”

“You okay?”

“No, not really. I thought there was time, I thought we’d have time…”

“It’s okay now, momma.”

“Yes and no. A friend said to me, “God answered your prayer to heal her, just not in the way you wanted.” A hug, your hug… just one hug… you always said I gave the best hugs, but really it was you who gave the best hugs. I miss your hugs most of all because they were so complete, so full of unconditional love.”

“We shall hug again…”

“I know, my precious daughter. You weren’t mentally ill, your were mentally injured. Doctors who prescribed drugs only hurt you more because those drugs didn’t help you, they hurt you more by altering your mind. I wish I could go back… I would tell that first doctor to go to hell. I’m sorry I trusted him, a doctor who didn’t care about you in a system that cared even less. I’m so sorry.”

“Momma…”

“I know, how could I know? It doesn’t really help though when I’m trapped in the garden of memories.”

“Momma?”

“Yes?”

“Remember?”

“Remember??”

“I sent you a picture with the words, “God is restoring everything the enemy has stolen!” I wrote, “You know those days where you think God forgot you and you can feel the pain crushing you and then something catches your eye cause it’s not in the ordinary of your things? I read this the other day during one of those moments and I think it’s great. 🙂 I hope it helps you too.” God has restored to me everything the enemy stole because I’m whole now. It’s His promise to you as well. I love you momma.”

“I love you to the moon and back, to infinity and beyond.”

“I love you more.”

“I love you the most.”

“I loved you first.”

“You are missed, my darling. You were never a burden, by the way. A thousand bad days with you are better than a perfect day without you.”

“I’m still with you…”

His name shall be…

“For you formed my inward parts; you knitted me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made.” Psalm 139:13-14.

Twenty years ago… on this day 20 years ago, I was introduced to the most amazing human being. When you meet a person for the first time, you may not like the person and you can choose to walk away from the person. However, when God declares, “This is your child,” the choice is far different. Let’s be honest, sometimes you don’t like your children. You may love them, but you don’t like them. Or maybe, they aren’t the child you wished for but there they are nonetheless. On March 9, 2000, God introduced me to my second child.

Thursday afternoon, after a hard labor, I met my son: 11 pounds, 4 ounces. Being from a family of all girls – five sisters, two nieces and my own girl, this boy was a first. His sister, Shelby, emphatically told me nine months earlier upon learning she would have a sibling, “God is going to give me a brother.” This sweet daughter of mine believed God would give her a brother. I told her the baby would be a girl because well, that’s just the way it was in our family. “No, God is going to give me a brother.” Such faith… so I bet her a dollar the baby would be a girl. When I called her from the hospital, my first words to her were, “I owe you a dollar.” Immediately she knew what that meant and squealed with the delight of having known all along. Such faith…

From that moment, my life was immeasurably blessed with this incredible human being. Moments of sheer joy he would bring me; the way he would make me wonder in amazement; the way he would light up my face with a laugh; the way he would make me wonder at his imagination that was always on full display; the way he would try me sometimes with his stubbornness… he was and continues to be a source of joy and pride. But most of all, I am amazed at the purity that is his heart.

The love he has for his Shelby, never saying a bad word against her, always loving her unconditionally.

The way his incredibly awesome dyslexic mind works… one day driving to an appointment – one of many – when he was a teenager, after the Parkland shooting, he said to me in the car, “This story came across my newsfeed.” First, I was just totally impressed with the fact he had a news feed, and then actually read the article. He told me the story of teenagers who were protesting guns, describing a poster one girl held that read, “Kids shouldn’t be afraid to go to school.”  With a tinge of sadness in his voice, he said, “They shouldn’t be afraid to go to school but they are and not because of guns, but because of bullies.” I was blown away. “This kid gets it,” I thought.

Sitting in his car seat in the back seat, saying, “Play country.” The cue to put on some George Strait. Watching him move his head and hands to the beat to “Blue Clear Sky” always brought me a smile.

When he stood up in the restaurant and started dancing when “Jump” by Van Halen came over the speaker… not caring who saw him, he just had to dance.

The way he would get back up whenever he fell, finding a way to get to where he wanted to be.

The way he took my hand to walk down the aisle with him to accept Christ as his Savior.

The way he would pray for Shelby and peace.

The way he would let me hold his hand, even now, he doesn’t pull his hand away.

The way he can remember stats while I’m still trying to learn positions.

The way he looks up at the night sky with wonder and amazement, even now.

The way he sends me photos of a North Carolina sunset, reminding me of God’s beauty.

The way he honors his future wife by desiring to wait for her while the world tells him differently.

The way he and Shelby would play, talk, watch movies together, creating a bond stronger than steel.

The way he seeks to do the right thing, and when he blows it, tries to make amends.

That smile that graces his face… that smile that brings such happiness in seeing it.

While life downright sucks sometimes, this human being who God blessed to give to me as my son, has brought more joy, more laughter, more silly moments, more pride than I deserve. So on this day, I am forever grateful for Shelby’s faith, for God’s goodness, and for the son he gave to me. His name is Garren Daniel Harper. Garren for his Papa who had only girls; Daniel to stand before the fire; Harper for his Dad. This young man is indeed fearfully and wonderfully made, and such a blessing as declared in God’s word.

“Behold, children are a heritage from the Lord, the fruit of the womb a reward.” Psalm 127:3

Happy Birthday, my son. I love you bigger than the sky.

 

Nothing More Than I Can Bear

“There hath no temptation taken hold of you but such as is common to man. But God is faithful; He will not suffer you to be tempted beyond that which ye are able to bear, but with the temptation will also make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear it.” 

I Corinthians 10:13

December 24, 2019: it began as any other day really. Coffee, letting out the dogs, deciding the grocery list for Christmas dinner. Nothing out of the unusual. Our daughter awoke, put in a load of clothes in the washer. I asked her if she’d like to drive around to look at Christmas lights that evening. She got that childlike smile and replied, “I’d like that very much.” I was excited about her and I doing what had been an annual tradition. However, as with all traditions, sometimes time and space interrupt them. This had been one of them. Our daughter had married almost two years earlier and was with her husband, who was stationed in San Diego. Our son, for this Christmas, had decided to stay at school. It would be the first Christmas without our two children together so I was already feeling a bit off… so the idea of driving around looking at lights, listening to Christmas music with my daughter took on a new sense of joy.

Our daughter had been home since early November. We had spent Thanksgiving together: the last time we were together has a family – me, my husband, our daughter and our son.

Deciding upon Christmas dinner, I asked my daughter if she needed anything from the store. She gave me a couple of items, and per my usual reply, I asked her to text me the items because I’d be sure to forget. I asked her if she’d like to come; she replied she did not. As we left, she saw us to the door. We hugged each other. “I love you,” she said. “I love you too, hon.” She stood in the doorway as we left.

Ninety minutes later, we arrived home, turned off the house alarm. I went to our daughter’s room; she wasn’t there. Looking into the back yard, I saw the shed door open. This was not unusual as sometimes the wind blew open the door. Not thinking anything about it, I went outside to close the door. Upon entering the shed, I saw my daughter lying on the floor. I knew…

Screaming something unintelligible, I ran to my husband. Ran into the house to get the phone. My husband called 911, I went back to the shed, still screaming, “No!” I knelt down beside her. I knew… blood pooled around her head, gun laying by her right hand, her eyes half open. I took her hand, it was already cooling. “No, no, no…” was the mantra. Placing my head on her chest, I prayed, “Please God, oh please, no…” All I wanted to hear at that moment was her heart, but the organ that pumped life through her veins was forever still. I don’t know how long I knelt beside my daughter, holding her hand, kissing her cheek, placing my head on her chest, before my husband and a law enforcement officer pulled me away. One on each side, each taking an elbow, pulled me up, walking me out of the shed.

The light that had been my daughter was darkened, never to shine again on this earth.

The ensuing days were filled with the usual activity that surrounds the sudden death of a loved one. Family and friends came, the funeral arrangements were made, we buried our daughter. The usual words were said, “I’m sorry for your loss;” “Be strong;” “Fill the emptiness with her memories.” All meaningless, albeit well meaning.  It was during this time, those first days I came to truly understand the verse that opens this post. I learned how wrong I was. First, I had been wrong in its meaning for many years. I used to believe that God doesn’t give us anymore than we can handle regarding the trials we face in this life. Then I thought, “Well, He does because He doesn’t want us handling anything; He wants us to give it to Him.” Then I realized as I prepared for my daughter’s burial, that the verse has nothing to do with the trials and tribulations we face in life.

The verse, when read in context, refers to temptations not trials. There is no temptation that we face that is bigger than we can handle because God is bigger than any temptation, be it drinking, spending more time watching television instead of spending time with family, smoking, pornography… whatever that temptation is, it won’t be so big that we can’t overcome it because when we have Christ, He will deliver us when we earnestly seek Him.

It was then I understood the appropriate verse during these times is not the oft repeated paraphrase, “God won’t give you anything more than you can handle,” because burying my daughter who killed herself on Christmas Eve was definitely more than I could handle. It still is… So now, I remind myself of the appropriate verse that His grace is sufficient for me.

“And he said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness.” II Corinthians 12:9.

One Nation, Under…

Because it seems the county that I reside is not the only one (*see link at bottom of post)… here is a response I prepared and read at a town hall meeting last month with the names and location deleted:

“Here we are today to discuss … decision to post signs in all … classrooms stating students are not required to state the Pledge of Allegiance. From my understanding this came about because a parent complained and stated the ACLU had been contacted. So, as with the case of prayer, … acquiesced under threat of lawsuit. A simple recitation of Florida law that states no student is compelled to recite the Pledge of Allegiance would have sufficed, but again, his reaction was one of capitulation. Just as the case with teachers praying at functions off school grounds, this one is steeped in ignorance of the law and our founding principles.

Due to time constraints, I will begin with the Declaration of Independence of 1776, with Thomas Jefferson’s words, “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of happiness. That to secure these rights, governments are instituted among men…

The truths Jefferson spoke of were self-evident, needing no explanation and that rights are granted by our Creator and government is the protector of those rights. In a commentary written by Jefferson regarding the events leading up to the Declaration of Independence, he wrote,

…we cooked up a resolution… for appointing the 1st day of June… for a day of fasting, humiliation and prayer, to implore heaven to avert from us the evils of civil war, to inspire us with firmness in support of our rights…

After the drafting of the Constitution, of which George Washington was the presiding officer, it was written by John Adams that “Our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other.”

One of the first acts George Washington performed after being sworn in as the first President of the United States was to pray.

After the Bill of Rights was ratified and George Washington left office, he presented his Farewell Address to the nation which read in part,

Of all the dispositions and habits which lead to political prosperity, religion and morality are indispensable supports. In vain would that man claim the tribute of patriotism, who should labor to subvert these great pillars of human happiness, these firmest props of the duties of men and citizens. The mere politician, equally with the pious man, ought to respect and cherish them. A volume could not trace all their connections with private and public felicity. Let it simply be asked: Where is the security for property, for reputation, for life, if the sense of religious obligations desert the paths which are the instruments of investigation in courts of justice? And let us caution indulge the supposition that morality can be maintained without religion. Whatever may be conceded to the influence of refined education on minds of peculiar structure, reason and experience both forbid us to expect that national morality can prevail in exclusion of religious principle. It is substantially true that virtue is a necessary spring of popular government. The rule, indeed, extends with more or less force to every species of free government. Who that is a sincere friend to it can look with indifference upon attempts to shake the foundation of the fabric.

Abraham Lincoln, 67 years later, addressed the nation on Nov. 19 1863, stating in part, “that this nation, under God…”

There was a time in this country when politician and layman alike acknowledged God; even for those who did not believe, there was an acknowledgment that this nation was built on the principles that liberty, freedom, and rights come from God, not government.

The argument that “In God We Trust” wasn’t used until the 1950s is a lie that has permeated the fabric of our educational institutions, courts and political institutions. The words “In God We Trust” are inscribed in the House and Senate Chambers; the Great Seal of the United States has inscribed the Latin phrase Annuit Coeptis, meaning “God has smiled on our undertaking”; coins from the 1880s and beyond have the words “In God We Trust” inscribed as well as paper currency from at least the early 1900s. Well before 1956.

The reminder is not that each person must adhere to a certain religion or  believe in God. The reminder is that our rights come from our Creator and government is to be the protector of those rights.

The wall of separation of church and state is a concocted idea from a 1947 Supreme Court Ruling in Everson v. Board of Education Ewing. While the Supreme Court upheld the board of education’s practice of reimbursing parents for money expended for bus transportation to take their children to school, even religious schools, the justices wrote in the majority opinion “The First Amendment has erected a wall between church and state. That wall must be kept high and impregnable.”

In 1962, the Supreme Court erased almost 200 years of precedent when it declared the recitation of prayer, even with a neutral deity, unconstitutional for violating the separation of church and state.

The phrase itself originates from a letter Thomas Jefferson wrote to the Danbury Association, a group of Baptists, who were concerned the government would legislate their religion. Jefferson wrote the First Amendment guaranteed them their right and government could not infringe on that, writing there is a separation of church and state. The restriction was placed on government drafting laws infringing upon a person’s ability to practice their religion, or no religion, even in the public sphere. It was not a restriction on the people and it did not mean that we should refuse to acknowledge that we are “One nation under God” and it is “Providence,” “Almighty,” “Our Creator,” “Higher Being,” “God” who endows us with our rights – not the government.

My words here are not to advocate for a state-religion, but to remind those who are listening that we are one nation under God. No one is required to recite those words, but for our …, who is the leader of our education system in … to have such a lack of knowledge and to continually acquiesce to the demands of those who are offended by our very history is deplorable.

Feel free to argue and stand against our history, but at least know our history.

I will close with Thomas Jefferson’s words, “On every question of construction, let us carry ourselves back to the time when the Constitution was adopted, recollect the spirit manifested in the debates, and instead of trying what meaning may be squeezed out of the text or invented against it, conform to the probable one in which it was passed.””

*https://www.yahoo.com/parenting/schools-pledge-of-allegiance-mistake-sparks-194702711.html