Did You Really Know Me?
At my brother's memorial, my uncle said he didn't know "annie", which is my new name for the last 15 or so years. I told him he could call me Joyce if he wanted, and he replied, "Joyce, I know."
I wish it had been at a different time. This was my brother's day, not mine, and my emotions were too vulnerable anyway. But if it had been another time and another place, this is what I would have liked to have said to my uncle, and anyone else in my family that would say, "I know Joyce."
"Did you really know me?"
What was my favorite color?
What were my favorite classes at school? Favorite teachers?
That's just some very basic things about me that are part of what makes me me.
But there are some very important parts that really determine who I am and what I'm about and I would daresay no one in my family could answer any of these questions?
Let's start from some of my earliest memories.
How did I feel about my dad?
That's quite a lot right there. This all happened while I was still called Joyce.
So let me just enlighten you a little. I don't know if any of you will ever read this, but I need to write it out for me. I'm not the one that doesn't want relationships with family members. The truth is, most of my family, maybe all of them, don't want a relationship with me. You want me back like I was, and you really don't know what that was except for what I let you see.
The truth is I was happy, yes, some of the time. When I was with people I liked and thought liked me, I could be happy. I was able to put on a face and put the pain on a shelf. But much of the time, I was struggling with depression. I was depressed at a kid, too. I can't even remember all the times I took aspirin, or pills, just to try to end my life. Nothing ever worked and for that I'm thankful. God had his hand on me. Do you know what it was each time that brought me to the point of wanting to be dead?
Did you know I loved being in church. I felt safe there. I felt loved. I used to dream of living at the church in Ballard. I thought if I could just put a bed upstairs and stay there, I'd be happy and safe.
Wherever we lived, since I was about 7, I would go to what ever church we lived by. I started by going to a Covenant church when we lived on Minor. I went to a Lutheran church when we lived by Woodland Park. When we lived on 24th, I went to the Presbyterian church. Then when we moved to the Dayton house, I went primarily to the Church of God. I loved especially the youth meetings. That's where I could really pray and cry and talk to God. That's where I felt the most loved. And that's where I got the help I needed to get me through my teen years. They didn't know everything I was going through, but some of it and they would pray for me...that is Brother Snodgrass and Tommy would. They were the ones I could talk most freely with. Yes, I was hurt by some of them later on in my teens...except for Tommy. He loved me unconditionally. He was like a dad to me. One of the last times I saw him, before he moved to Tenino and I lost touch, was that he was so proud of me. I will never forget those words.
Speaking of the Church of God, that is where I learned I couldn't trust women. I knew I couldn't trust the women in my family, but I was betrayed and misunderstood by some of the women there, and that was all it took.
As a kid, somewhere between 6 and seven, I had a problem stealing. I would steal candy from the stores when I'd go to get milk or whatever. I tried quitting. Sometimes, I'd make it by the candy stand, which was right in front of the door, and I'd be so happy, but then when I'd pass it again, the urge was too strong. Even though I was so young, it still scared me that I couldn't quit. One day I realized God could help me. I asked Jesus for forgiveness and for his help. Later that day I had to go to the store and I was almost home, right in front of Butterworth's funeral home, when it hit me that I didn't steal. I was free from then on. And that led me to an even deeper appreciation for Jesus and a relationship that was real. I knew he helped me. Prayer then became my outlet. I could pray about my pain. I could cry, which I usually did when I prayed. I finally felt listened to and cared about. And he answered my prayers time and again.
Another thing you don't know is that whenever I was alone in the house, older than 7 of course, I would sit with my guitar and sing to the Lord. Some songs I heard, others I made up as I sang...and many of those songs were an expression of the pain inside me and a cry to the Lord for help to be strong and not give up.
Some of you may know a little of where that pain came from, most of you don't, don't care, don't want to know, or know but don't want to think about it or face it. That's okay. I'm used to that. I was ignored or called a liar so many times, that even I went many years trying to ignore it and not face it, and tell myself lies about it just so I could go on with life. But this isn't about what 'happened' to me, so I'm not going to go into all that. This is about who I was and who I am, and that means it's about the effects on my life then and now of those circumstances I was in, and how I reacted to the pain in my life.
One of the things I guess I wish you could know, but probably won't this side of heaven, is how I feel about you. You have no idea at all. You don't know how many times I've cried my heart out to God to somehow let you see how I feel. I feel pain for my family. I can't think of hardly any of you without crying because I can see and feel the pain you are in but denying. I see the way many of you have shut God out of your life, even some of you who may claim to be a Christian. I see how some think of God as a God of wrath, punishment...a God who wants to whip his people into shape, a God who is more distant than anything, but who remembers your wrongs. I believe some of you think God wouldn't accept you because of what you do or what you've done. I used to have a lot of these beliefs and fears. But one thing the pain in my life has done for me is given me the truth about who God really is and what he is really all about. And I wish each of you could know that. As a child and teen, I could love and communicate with Jesus, but God was different in my mind.
In my adult years, I had a fear that I would do something wrong and die and God would say to me, "You can't come here, you're not my child". Did you know that just before my parents divorced, we were all in the kitchen and my dad was crying and my mother was saying something to him about my being afraid of him and wouldn't go to him. I was clinging to her leg. When I thought of that scene in my early teens, I thought that was one reason he never came to see me because I couldn't go to him even though he was crying. I felt I had rejected him. That was less painful to believe than that he simply didn't love me or care about me.
When I first started dealing with some things about my dad, I asked my mother about that day. She told me she informed him that day that I wasn't his child. It took me 30 plus years to realize that my fear of God saying I wasn't his child and couldn't enter heaven stemmed from that one day of finding out Clayton wasn't my real dad, and on that day he found out I wasn't his child. So he wanted nothing more to do with me. What a revelation...my fears were based on a memory I had stuffed inside. They were based on my earthly father, not my heavenly father. I assumed God was just like Clayton. I even remember crying out to God one day before I made the connection that I wanted to be able to know for sure I was his child and not fooling myself into believing I was. I didn't want to be deceived.
After this and being in therapy for awhile, and becoming open to some key people who loved me unconditionally in spite of what I told them or what they discovered about me, I finally began to see and believe that the God of the Bible is a loving God. He is the one who loves us unconditionally. He is the one who desires a relationship with us. He loves us so much and wants our love in return, but he won't force himself on us. He won't cross our boundaries. He wants us to want to love him and serve him. He wants us to allow him to be there with us through life's circumstances. He wants us to allow him to heal our woundedness. He knows we can't ever be acceptable to him on our own. Even the most holy of people still have sin in their lives at some point. If we could do it on our own, he wouldn't have sent his own son to die on the cross to be the sacrifice for our sins, once and for all. He accepts us as we are once we come to him because when he sees us, he sees us through Christ and his sacrifice. He sees the finished product as well. One thing promised to us is that he who began the work in us will perform his work in us until he comes for us. That shows that even with him in our lives, we don't become perfect. We still need worked on. And that work is what we need to open to because it makes our life more fulfilling and more complete.
Everything that God has been doing in my life has made me a better person, a better friend, wife, mother, grandmother. The wounds he has been healing as I open them up to him, have brought me closer to him and to others. I can become more real to others as I become real with myself and with God. By real, I mean open, honest, authentic. He is still helping me to see where I need to change. There are so many ways I've coped with circumstances and people that were unhealthy...they may have protected me as a kid, but as an adult, they have only hampered me as an individual and in my relationships with others. I still have a lot of changing to do, but I know I can't without God's help and the support of those close to me.
It seems to me that many family members have made my recovery about them. That's so far from the truth. My recovery has been about me getting better, healthier emotionally, physically, spiritually, and that has meant facing truths that I wanted to avoid, facing the pent up feelings I had all those years and allowing God to heal me on the inside. It certainly involves some family members. It has involved facing the way things done have hurt me and shaped my life, and seeing how it still affected me as an adult and how I needed to change that. It involved facing the truth, talking to those still in my life that hurt me and trying to begin a healthier relationship based on honesty. With my mother, before my therapy began, I was so angry with her most of my life that I couldn't get close. But I had to hide that anger, and what ended up happening was the anger turned inward and I ended up more depressed. Therapy didn't bring up that anger. Therapy was what was helping me face it and move on. When I met with her, I was really hoping she'd care. I was hoping she'd say simply, "I'm sorry, how can I help." With Paul, he did say he was sorry, and no one knows how much I considered that a gift.
You don't know how it felt to want to get this stuff out in the open and dealt with so we could move on to better things and better relationships. You don't know how much it hurts to know your own mother can't get beyond herself to see your pain and want to make things right. All she had to do was sincerely be sorry and try to understand how I felt and how it was effecting my life. I didn't need to keep rehashing the past. She's the one that keeps doing that. I wanted to say it once and then be able to work on being more honest with each other in the here and now. But most of my pain came from the constant accusations and it being turned around into being about her and me trying to destroy her. She still has no clue and I tried but I can't get her to see. This isn't how I wanted things to turn out.
If I had hurt my child, I would want them to come to me and let me know. I would hope I would be sorry and certainly would want to be there to help them through the pain and not inflict further pain on them. And believe me, I've done things to hurt my kids. Some things they've confronted me with, others I'm not sure. I know that at any time something could come up in their life to trigger an unresolved hurt, and I want to be open and give them what they need.
So you didn't know...you don't know what my desire was, what my hopes were, what my needs were.
Furthermore, you don't know anything about me during all this time because you haven't bothered to ask. Not one of you has ever bothered to call me and ask how I was doing or offer to help me through it. Instead, I got threatening letters, emails, my therapist gets threatened, etc. I've always heard blood is thicker than water. That is such a lie. Not one of you stood by me when I needed you. Not one of you cared enough to even think about how I was doing, let alone check on me. Not one of you ever called to hear my side of things if you were told things about me. Not one of you gave a ;&#:. And then when I found people who were nurturing and caring, you got mad. That's not loving. That's not sticking by someone in need. I didn't want anyone to take sides. There was no 'side' to take. I didn't expect anyone to get mad at whoever caused me pain in my life. I didn't want anyone hurt or abandoned because of what they did in the past, nor because of what they were continuing to do in the present. I may sound angry now, and that's because this part of it does make me angry. I understand it, but it still makes me angry.
The other desire I had was to help my family. I wanted to help them stop the cycle of abuse in our family...the sins of generations. I wanted it to stop here and now in my immediate family, but also in the entire family. I wanted us to stop being numb to the pain incest and abuse causes. I wanted us to start protecting the kids, the victims, and stop protecting the abusers. How can anyone say they love their family when they will knowingly allow a family member to continue to abuse one of their own. This isn't healthy. But I realized I'm not the one that can help because no one will listen to me, or even ask.
My hope is that anyone in the family who understands the pain I've been through and what it caused in my adult life, would do whatever they can to make sure no one else goes through that.
On my last visit with Russ, he told me he had been molested as a child. I will always regret that I didn't get a chance to talk with him further about that, and that I couldn't help him find healing. I know who did it, and I was really hoping that person would contact him after knowing the devastation it was bringing about in his life. I know that was part of the reason he became an alcoholic. It was the reason he went so downhill after finding out about Mark. It was too painful. I don't want to see another family member drink themselves to death because of past events that they can't get over. There is healing. There is forgiveness. There is hope. My fear is that anyone in the family who wants to get help, will avoid it because they saw what happened to me when I reached out for help. Statistics prove that those who are molested are more likely to have their own children molested. Girls who have been abused by a father, will often marry abusers. Boys who have been abused, often become abusers themselves...the same with women, too but not on as large a scale. It goes on and on until someone decides to break the cycle. I want that cycle broken in this family. The only way to stop it is to face it and change it.
I don't want to see people punished. That isn't my desire and never has been. But again, you didn't know that about me because you never asked. You never wanted to get to know my heart. But I do believe that if someone is abusing a child, they need to be removed from the child until they are recovered themselves and can be safe again. It's all about protecting our children and our grandchildren. It's about opening our eyes and seeing what's going on and making a decision to do something about it. Most of us wouldn't allow a stranger to continue to have access to our children if they are hurting them, but they seem helpless to stop it when it's a family member. That's not right. Lives are being destroyed. And that's something I will always care about now. I see too many hurting women and men and the effects it has on their lives. Some can't seem to move beyond the pain and find healing. Some end their lives because they can't live with the pain anymore. If you are reading this and your thoughts are, "What's the big deal. It happened long ago and they should just forget it. It wasn't that bad", then you need to look at your own life. Chances are you are denying your own pain and the effects it is having on your life. I knew the symptoms I had as an adult, but it took me a long time to finally realize why I had those struggles. Once I made the connection, then I knew more of what to do to get better.
If you are an abuser now, you don't want me around because I can no longer turn my back and pretend I don't know if I hear about you abusing a child. I will confront you and I will turn you in. I will want you to get help and find healing in your life, but my main concern is for the child that can't protect his/herself. So you can tell yourself you don't want anything to do with me because I'm mean or angry or whatever you are telling yourself, but the truth is, you can't handle being around me because I no longer will keep your secret. Know that I'm talking about those who are continuing to abuse children, not those who abused me and may have changed.
But, another thing you don't know about me is that I do care about the abusers, too. There are some abusers that were in my life that I care about and still love. I would name you here, but I don't want to do that. My heart aches for you because I want you to know I've forgiven you and want God's best for you. I want you to open your heart to him. I want you to know that your sin is no worse than any other sin. Sin is sin. It separates us from a relationship with God. But it doesn't have to anymore. He loves you more than I do. Don't wait to have it all together before you think you can come to him. That will never happen. You need him to be able to get it all together. And getting it all together is a process that takes our lifetime.
I still have struggles. I still numb some feelings with food. I still feel safer being overweight. I want to change that. But it's been my biggest and hardest battle. I still want to get closer in my relationship with God and with others. I've come to realize that I will forever be finding ways I need to change. When one battle is over, there will be another one. But it is all working together for my good as God promised it would. It's all part of my growing, maturing process (sanctification). I realize that God wants us to be people of integrity....authentic....real. I want to be real. That means letting people know how I feel, even if I'm angry or hurt. That means letting others know who I am and what I'm about..what I like, what I don't like. It means setting boundaries, and respecting other's boundaries. God wants me whole, and I want me to be whole, too. There are still areas I need to let him in to, areas I've closed off for reasons yet unknown.
I hope this gives you a little glimpse into who I am, and who I was as Joyce. I'm the same person. A name doesn't make a person, but a name can reflect who a person is. I was told many times I had a ministry of mercy and grace. I used to just kind of shrug it off, except that I knew I felt gracious toward others because I realized how much grace I needed. Then one day, I was driving home to North Bend and talking to God as I often did in the car, and He brought Abraham, Israel, Peter and Paul in the bible to my mind. He reminded me how he had changed their names to fit their new calling in life. I had never considered changing my name, but at that moment I said, "Okay, Lord, if you gave me a new name, I'd take it, but it would have to be significant like those in the Bible...describing m and how you see me." A couple of mornings later, maybe even the next morning, upon awakening, he was calling me Annie. I woke Tim up and said, "My new name is Annie!" I told him what happened and my remark to the Lord. But then I said, oh, it's probably nothing. Annie is a nickname and probably means something like twin, or whatever. He suggested we stop by the library and look it up. We did and I was amazed to find that annie meant "full of mercy and grace". I couldn't believe it. I remembered all the people who had said that to me, and was amazed that God saw me like that, too, and wanted to give me a name that reflected who I was and what my ministry was to be about. From that moment on, I never thought of myself as Joyce again. Tim, Tammy and Kevin and those in my church had no trouble calling me annie. So many people, kids too, would ask me my name right after that and I'd say 'Annie', and they'd say they liked that, I seemed like an annie, etc. This name was a gift from God to me. And it was amazing how easily we all took to it and loved it.
It has nothing to do with the name Joyce being bad or associated with anything bad. It's simply a new direction, a new path God had placed before me. And it fits, and I love it.
So now you know the whole story about my name change.
Well, I may think of other things to add to this list later, but for now, I must get on to other things. I wish you could have really known me as Joyce and could know me as annie, because you would see that I'm the same person in some sense, but for the most part, I'm much healthier and happier than ever before, and as I said, I let people in closer too. The old me, Joyce, wouldn't share this kind of stuff with you. I wish I could share stuff with you in person, but I'm sure that will never happen...but then you never know.
And even in what I've told you here, you still don't know me. To know me is to spend quality time with me. To know me is to be honest with me and let me be honest with you. To know me is to let me in and let me see your heart. And if you did that, you'd find that I do care about you and want the best for you. I guess I can always have a little hope.