Enough!

I am happy to announce that Chicken Soup for the Soul has accepted this article that I submitted to them. The on-sale date is scheduled for May 5, 2015. The book title is Time to Thrive.

I was sitting at my dresser brushing my long red hair when suddenly Mom stormed through the door and started slapping me around, screaming and yelling, “I told you to stay away from those kids! They’re nothing but trouble! Then you have the nerve to bring them to the house!”

I liked the brother and sister. I had spent the entire day with them wondering what was so bad about them. They didn’t curse. They didn’t smoke. They didn’t pick-pocket the stores we went in; none of the things that I thought mom considered bad. I even invited them to go to Bible Study with me that night and they agreed.

So I brought them home with me.

Mom’s face said it all. It was like standing in front of a Judge, my mother scowling down at the three of us standing before her.

“They’re going with me to Bible Study,” I said hurriedly, hoping that would smooth her feathers and make her happy.

I thought a lot of things I did would make her happy. Going to church. Reading my Bible. Never hanging out with the wrong crowd. Obeying all her strict, religious rules. Living the squeaky-clean life of a Puritan. But in the end, I failed. She always raised the bar just a little higher, and like a fool, knowing I couldn’t jump over it, I’d try. And fail. And try again.

Of course I understood. She had a terrible, abusive childhood. Her mother, an immigrant from Germany, couldn’t raise her twelve children alone, so she surrendered the youngest two, my mother and her sister, to an orphanage.

From the time I can remember, I lived and relived her childhood horrors. Not only in the stories she told, but in the guilt and shame I felt for her sadness and pain. For her anger and rage. For not being enough to make her happy.

Trying to pay the debt I thought I owed cost me my life. I lost my identity, my thoughts, my hopes and dreams, my choices. When I looked in the mirror, I didn’t see my youthful, freckled face; I saw her wrinkled, angry scowl.

By the time I married and had a child, I believed that everything that went wrong was my fault. A slap in the face till my ears rung was my fault. Slamming me against the wall and being choked was my fault. Running out and leaving me all night was my fault. Ending the marriage in divorce was my fault.

When my son was five, I met and married a man who changed my life. He saw all the ugly inside me; all the hurt, anger and rage, and kept loving me. But it wasn’t enough to save me from myself.

Just five minutes with my mother set off a time bomb inside me. When I went home, I would blow up at my family. That’s when I sought counseling. That’s when all the bitterness and self-loathing, false guilt and shame began pouring out. That’s when, with God’s help, I began sorting through the rubble and found the little rag doll that was tossed and forgotten there. That’s when I picked her up, tattered and worthless as she was, and embraced her in my arms. That’s when my eyes began to see.

It was the hardest thing I had ever done; worse than going through my divorce. I walked out of my mother’s life. I said enough of her power and control! Enough of her self-pity! Enough of her dumping the weight of the world on my shoulders! Enough! Enough!

After two years of counseling, my therapist suggested I try talking to my mother. Immediately, my heart pounded in my chest, fearing that one moment spent with her would destroy every ounce of progress I had made. I told him I would consider it.

Several months later, I opened my eyes to a beautiful Saturday morning and knew this was the day. I jumped out of bed, and before changing my mind, I asked my husband if he would take me to see my mother. I needed every drop of his love and support.

We pulled up to the curb as mom and her new husband were walking to their apartment.

Rolling down the car window, I said, “Mom, can we talk?”

Like walking the Green Mile, I shuffled down the long, narrow corridor to her apartment. We sat down at the small kitchen table, and taking a deep breath, I poured out my battered heart.

And without a tear in her eye she said, “Sandi, if I have done anything wrong, I’m sorry. I just don’t know why we can’t let bygones be bygones and start over.”

The same old story. Let’s not get to the cause of our constant battles. No sense in delving into the truth. Let’s just cover it up and pretend it never happened.

“Mom, why can’t you see that you’re not the only one hurting? You’ve been so consumed in your own pain that you can’t see how you’ve hurt me. Right now, I don’t know if I love you or hate you. That’s why I have to stay away; to try and figure it out. I’m sorry mom. All I’ve ever wanted to do is make you happy. But I can’t. Nobody can.”

It would be six long years before I came close to trying again. Six long years of sorting through the guilt and shame of abandoning my mother. Six long years of facing it without the support and understanding of my siblings. Six long years of facing mom’s friends, seeing the shame-on-you glare in their eyes.

And during those six long years I learned that I am not responsible for my mother’s abusive childhood and the physical and emotional pain she suffered. I learned that I’m not God and that He never expected me to take on the tremendous task of fixing my mother. He told me so. Loud and clear. And the heavy burden lifted.

Finally, feeling emotionally strong enough to allow her back into my life, we gradually built a relationship. Sometimes it was good, sometimes it wasn’t. And although my mother never changed, I did. I grew stronger than I ever thought possible.

I still wish I had known a mother’s unconditional love. I still wish I had seen just a glimmer of approval in her eyes before she died. But I’ve learned that I can live without it.

The relationship I had with my mother taught me that no matter how hard we try we cannot fix people’s broken lives. We cannot try saving them without losing ourselves in the process.

It was tough. It was painful. It was fearful and confusing. But I’m glad I did it. I’ve reintroduced myself to myself. Like a flower in the dessert, I’ve come back.

Sandi Staton

Happy, Happy, Happy

Happiness

She isn’t on a shopping spree. It’s not her birthday. Her husband didn’t buy her a big fat diamond ring. No, Tilly is happy cause she’s free. Free from bondage. Free from guilt and shame. Free from lofty expectations; of herself and the world in which she lives.

But it hasn’t always been this way for Tilly. She remembers well the torture of playing the pleaser game and never winning, and jumping through fiery hoops and always getting burned. She remembers the scalding tears, the aching heart and stretches of depression. She remembers running for safety and building walls around her heart. She remembers the anger and rage that ripped her world apart. She remembers the scornful voices shouting in her ears. And she remembers stuffing her pain way down deep and pretending she was fine. Heaven forbid that she ever let anyone see all that ugly inside her!

Then, one day, Tilly couldn’t pretend anymore. The dam of hurt was too hard to hold back. Little by little it began to leak till finally it broke, nearly drowning her in grief. She dropped to her knees and cried out to God. He must have been there all along because immediately he scooped her in His arms and held her as she sobbed. Amazingly, He was not appalled by the ugliness that poured out; all that anger and rage, rupturing like a festered boil. Instead, He touched her hurt, washed her clean, and dried her eyes. For the first time ever, she was free!

Every now and then Tilly gets off track. She takes her eyes off God and pulls away from His hand. She gets lost; angry, hurt and confused. Suddenly, she remembers God. She calls His name, and there He is again; just like the thousands of times before; loving her, encouraging her to keep up the faith and reminding her that He will never leave her nor forsake her. And that, my friend, is why Tilly’s so happy!

Loving Hands

Loving Hands

Loving Hands

Standing all alone one night

I felt nobody cared.

My mind was deeply troubled

and my heart was in despair.

Life seemed so cold and lonely

as I walked its rugged path,

so deeply troubled I became

that it was hard to laugh.

Then one day I met a Friend

with gentle, loving eyes.

His voice so softly spoken

that I began to cry.

He said He understood my pain

cause He’d been there before.

He told me of His precious love

and the lonely cross He bore.

He stretched forth His nail-scarred hands

and brushed away my tears.

My broken heart He mended

and cast out all my fears.

He placed His hands upon my head

and healed my troubled mind.

He swept away the darkness

and gave me peace sublime.

My heart is no longer lonely,

my mind is no longer in pain.

Life is so much brighter

for I am no longer the same.

I now have a Friend who loves me

and takes me just as I am.

No matter how often I trip and fall,

He stretches forth His loving hands.

Sandi Staton

Silence is not Always Golden

Silence

Maybe it was his upbringing. His alcoholic dad. His parent’s divorce. Maybe it was WWII. Maybe it was the so-called friend who sold his cabinet shop while he was fighting the war. Maybe, maybe, maybe. Whatever it was, I’ve spent a lifetime trying to figure it all out. Like: why did he just sit and stare? What was he thinking about? What did he see? Why didn’t he want to talk to me? Why did he move so slowly and always look so sad?

He was a good man. Didn’t drink. Didn’t cuss. Didn’t scream and yell and never, ever lost his cool. He was gentle and quiet and patient and sometimes extremely humorous. Yet, I was afraid of him. Afraid of doing something wrong. Afraid of his scornful frown. Afraid of making too much noise, asking too many questions, sitting on his lap, hugging his neck. Afraid of his cold, stark, overpowering, confusing, excessive silence.

I concluded that my dad didn’t love me; that I was stupid and ugly. So, to protect my sensitive, fragile emotions, I decided that I didn’t need him and gradually built a wall between us. By the time I became a teen, I terribly resented and rebelled against my dad. That, along with my dad not bringing much, if any money into the house, my mother working three jobs and flying off the handle every other day, our house became a war zone.

Sadly, between the wall I built, and my misguided conclusions, I blamed it all on my dad.

If I had the chance to do it over again, I would sit on his lap, hug his neck and tell him how much I love him. I would understand that the war shattered his soul and that silence was his haven. I would encourage him to talk to me, to share his thoughts with me, and tell me what he’s feeling. I’d see my dad as a pillar of strength instead of the weakling I made him out to be. I would hold his hand and tell him how proud I am of him and that I love him just the way he is.

What I’ve learned over the years is that not everyone can love us the way we want to be loved. Not everyone can meet all our needs. We are all human, and we are all a product of the environment in which we were raised. I thank God for opening my eyes, healing my shattered heart, and helping me to forgive and move on with my life.

Sandi Staton

A Coat of Many Colors

A Coat of Many Colors

This poem came to me one quiet morning during a moment of meditation. Suddenly, across the screen of my imagination, flashed a brightly colored robe . . . a token of Jacob’s love for his son, Joseph. This robe symbolized a position of honor and esteem. “I wish I could have known a father’s love like that,” I thought enviously. Then, like a gentle breeze, I felt the cloak of God’s love wrap around me, reminding me that I am precious to Him. All the finest and brightest treasures of this world pale in comparison to God’s unfailing, unchanging, unconditional love for humankind!

A Coat of Many Colors

With loving care and tenderness,
my Father made for me
a coat of many colors for all the world to see.
He didn't have to tell me;
I saw it in His face,
this coat of many colors must ever be worn with grace.
Threads of pure gold proclaim His birth,
purple, His royal descent.
Stripes of snow white and patches of blue
proclaim His purity, honor, and strength.
And to complete His glorious masterpiece,
He trimmed it all in red,
proclaiming the cross at Calvary
upon which His blood was shed.
Father, thank you for your wondrous gift
so precious, rich, and free,
for the coat of many colors you have made for me.
And lest in arrogance I wear your gift,
forgetting from where it came,
remind me of the price you paid,
to cover my guilt, my sin, my shame.

Sandi Staton

Renewed!

 

Butterfly
Renewed
Sinking low in the pit of despair
my soul was trapped in Satan's snare.
In anguish I cried, "Lord, do you really care?
Do you even hear my earnest prayer?
You seem so far away,
I can barely make it through the day.
My heart is breaking in two.
Lord, I can't make it without you!"
Then, gazing through my window pane
I heard his voice again.
The trees must have heard it too,
cause the leaves were clapping neath the sky so blue.
Robbins and bluebirds, too rejoiced
as from limb to limb they flew.
And in that glorious moment,
my spirit was renewed.
My heart had forgotten
to worship the King,
my soul, too down-cast
forgot how to sing.
But, engulfed in the beauty
of God's wondrous Creation,
I heard His voice, I saw His face,
I felt His warm embrace.
He captured my soul from the miry pit,
and chased my blues away.
He gave my heart a new song to sing,
and the courage and strength to live each day.

Sandi Staton

Redeemed!

The Cross

Redeemed!

Sugar and spice and all that’s nice

That’s what Eve was made of,

And placed in the Garden of beauty and charm

To bask in the warmth of God’s love.

Then along came a serpent so charming and sweet

With a hellish mission in mind,

To crush and destroy the apple of God’s eye,

And to rob her precious soul blind.

How foolish was she that fateful day

When she ate from the forbidden tree,

And stripped herself bare of God’s righteousness

For all eternity.

But even before He formed the clay

God had a plan for man-kind,

To redeem and restore our broken soul,

And give us life sublime.

He sent to earth His only Son

To die on a splintered tree,

To wash away sin’s ugly stain,

And set our spirit free!

Sandi Staton