Tag Archives: abuse

2500 Miles, A Story of Life, Death and Resurrection

We bought a large paper map.

It covers the entire Eastern portion of the United States and the major roads, towns and cities between here and there. I pinned it to the dining room door so I could take in the whole picture— see the entire journey spread out before me and somehow plot the course for the weeks ahead.  For a trip like this, a GPS or Google Map just won’t do.

2500 Miles

We’re back.

Of course, even a brand-new paper map can’t show everything. It didn’t show the place in Virginia where we pitched our tent that first night with hundreds of pet-grade bunnies hopping around.

It didn’t show Pennsylvania roadsides strewn with wild raspberries, ripe and ready for the picking by the hand, mouth and bucket-full. The mountain ranges were etched on there, but not the rows and rows of windmills planted along their ridges like monstrous, aluminum and steel daisies. 

In so many ways, this land we call America, is breath-taking and beautiful.


There was a purpose for the going.

Practical, promised and somewhat sacrificial, the youngest had qualified for a special Ranger School that had us delivering him to the Eastern Pennsylvania mountains adjacent to the Appalachians and very close to the hills I once roamed in Northern New Jersey.

Kinda crazy and massive in it’s scope and somewhat bigger than any trip we’ve taken overseas, this was about as organized as we get.  Some parts were planned— the camping, the visit with dear friends, the whirlwind tour of DC. Others were tentative— open-ended and accidental, possible but not set in stone, leaving plenty of wiggle-room for change if something didn’t look or feel quite right.

Mountain RoadBig Beautiful Barn

My husband was insistent.

He’d never seen this part of the country—never imagined how beautiful it would be. I’d always told him about my childhood home— the open spaces, rolling hills, farms and fields and now he’d see for himself.

He insisted on taking me further.

Insisting I needed to go all the way back this time..and he was right. Going all the way back was the next step to going fully forward. It was time:
any sooner, I wasn’t ready. Any later, and I might have missed it altogether.

Franklin Pond SignFranklin Pond

Franklin Pond Waterfall

From a picnic at Franklin Pond where memories of day camp and swim lessons in the summer mingled with frostbitten remembrances of ice skating in the winter, to walking the grounds of Franklin Elementary school and remembering this place that sheltered me during some of my darkest years. I halfway expected it to be torn down, replaced by something more modern. Instead, the well-worn brick and mortar gave off a sense of warmth and familiarity I hadn’t expected to greet me.

Franklin Elementary

Driving around to park in front, my breath caught as spotted “her”: The Tree. I’m not really a tree-hugger by definition but I came close to hugging this one. I was so glad to see her. I’m pretty sure it was 3rd grade with Mrs. Fitzgibbons: every morning after the Pledge, as a class we’d turn toward the window look out at the tree and sing,

I think that I shall never see,
a poem lovely as a tree

I confess… the sight of this tree made me cry for all that was and was not… and well— never would be.

Trees 3

But now, it was OK. This time, I could say a proper goodbye and move on… thankful for what IS.

Nearly missing the turn, we found that trailer park and drove all…  the way…  to the top.
I think I spotted Elsie’s trailer.
I know I saw the other one.
It looks like she still lives there.
The place is a dump.
I didn’t knock.

It’s enough to know the slight satisfaction of having left as a weak and wounded child— and to now return as a whole woman of God— as an outside observer to the mess that was and still remains.

I came.
I saw.
Choosing to be moved lightyears beyond…
I walked on leaving her…. all that…. behind.

The last place would take me further than I thought I wanted to go. But he was waiting for me and in 26 years had never met my husband. Again, it was time.

The first pictures tell all: my shields are up, not quite ready for that “Hallmark moment” to be thrust upon me— not ready to easily  dismiss all the hurt and disappointment that had accumulated over the years. I didn’t mean for it to be so obvious but it’s just where I had to begin. I had to be sure. I had to wait and see.

Shield's upShields up TWO

Inside I watched him shuffle around the kitchen happily chatting and preparing for dinner. Watching as he helped feed and rock his great-granddaughter to sleep. Observing his frailty and age, his tenderness and patience to those around him. All the while, somewhat keeping my distance, looking in from the outside at this scene my heart had craved for so long.

Three times he told the story.

Warning them not to toss the baby around like that because once, he’d been playing with me that way.  I was eight months old. He was tossing me back and forth to my mother — and missed. I landed at his feet. “Horrible.” he said , “You just don’t know how horrible you’ll feel if you miss.” 

Three times….. I heard his voice quake at the memory.

I thought— “Really?!? Because 33 years ago, You dropped me again and walked away.”

Through the years I’ve struggled quite a bit with getting back up.   There were times I missed the mark, wrongly trying to fill those gaps through other ways and people. God picked me up, it’s true, and my husband has been a strong arm to lean on as we’ve walked this God-guided road together. I had to learn these GREATER things along the way and I wasn’t expecting any of that to change this day.

Listening and watching I stood my ground til he moved around the kitchen island toward me and with few other words, simply said, “I’m sorry”.  In that moment nothing would replace the relationship denied to both of us. Nothing would replace the damaged years or innocences lost.          Nothing could or was supposed to.

In that moment, yesterday was not the point tomorrow was.  Forgiveness was requested and it was mine to give. The power and the gift, first given to me by God, was mine to transfer to him then and there. He opened his arms for a hug…  and I let him. After 33 years, he came back to pick me up….to begin, somehow… again.  

It was time.

Ephesians 2-4-10

We all ate dinner together.  My husband took many more pictures.  I played with my niece and helped with the dishes. Then we said our goodbyes, got into the car and with a paper map in my lap, we turned towards home.

Towards tomorrow and whatever tomorrow brings.

Lorretta signature

the archaeology of a soul

Age is wearing me well in some spots.

I know I’m harder in some ways and softer in others—hopefully in the right degrees and measures. Some days I just don’t know….so much about who I’m supposed to be or be like remains a mystery.

I’ve learned to live with the gaps.

It doesn’t happen every day yet, it happens often enough that it’s become familiar.  When I discover I’m biting my lip and holding my breath just a little as I stare down at a new-to-me piece of uncharted territory. It needs to be reclaimed and I know I’m going to have to work it.

Remove the boulders and stumbling blocks.
Sort and set the boundaries.

This digging uncovers more of the“bones” and pottery fragments of my life.. broken places and pieces that look scattered and meaningless on the surface,  until I give them to God. He washes them and shows me how they can fit together. Shows me how, although they’re chipped and cracked, they’re still beautiful, valuable and good.

It’s the archaeology and uncovering of my soul. It’s the necessary, healing work of taking up these pieces and fragments of me and somehow finding a way to fit them together to form a storyline and sense of civilization— a place to stand and work from.

It’s this now.

the archaeology of a soul

These pieces of my story are jagged and rough. No matter how many times they’ve rolled around in my head and bump up against my heart over the years, there’s always a sharp edge that catches, snags and cuts just a little.   Today is no different but it’s a welcome wounding…. an offering.


There was a time I spoke like a child, acted like a child, thought and trusted like a child because heck— I was a child. Some said I was an “old soul” but nothing prepares a soul— young or old— for the crushing weight upon it’s innocence. Somehow, I’d entered into the presence of evil often found in those classic fairy tales.

Wicked witches and demonic spells.
An evil stepmother and a weak, unwilling to fight, father figure.
Starvation and sordid assaults upon my body and mind that even the Brother’s Grimm shied away from.

And I will too.

Because these pieces hold only part of the story and are not the sum total of who I am or want to be about. To camp out here is to miss the point of why my story matters at all. And it does matter…the whole story matters because it’s a story of wholeness— pieces made whole.

****************************************** Let me tell you more…

forever and a day

It could have been yesterday.

Hot …. humid… a day scorched around it’s edges by a punishing almost-summer sun.  It was a long hot day and I was so lonely.    I remember that well.

The weight of my twenty years hung heavy around my shoulders. Only two months of space separated me from the dirt and dysfunction of a disastrous and abusive 3-year relationship.

Even then I recognized how close I came to becoming a statistic.

Finally on my own with a place to call home—or at least where I could turn the key in a lock without fear,  I was just beginning to detox from all those years of lying… and laying with a proverbial devil. By this time, I was experiencing something close to the emotional “DT’s”— anxiety, uncertainty and doubt plagued my waking hours and strangely quiet moments.

Chaos… is bad and yet strangely comforting in it’s predictability. To those unfamiliar with it,  sometimes silence feels deadly.    It did that night.


Although we spoke to one another regularly, I felt so far from God. It was as if I was making a collect call to Him every time… hoping He’d accept and always surprised when He did.    He was still very near to me though. How near would take me many, many more years to discover and still more years to embrace.

I had a long way to go to before I’d discover who God really is and at this point in my life I’d long forgotten who I was. Maybe I’d never known at all. It was time to find out.

By the time I’d gathered up enough courage to pack up my 70 Dodge Dart and drive away from hell,  I knew only that life *could* be better and I was allowed to start over.


But that night, I was tired. The deep kind of tired that comes from fighting to get to the other side. The kind of tired that almost makes you forget what you were fighting for.. give up and halfway wonder if it might have been better to stay in “Egypt”…..

And lonely.

forever and a day

All those years of forced-chosen-forced isolation not only left me with little self-respect but, no real friends. One or two hung about the fringes of my life and maybe one would actually answer the phone on a night like this.     Maybe.

One ring.
Two….. three…
On the fourth an unfamiliar voice chirps:

“Widespread Panic Hotline!
We are open for your requests now!!”

HUH?!?!  Checking the number…yes… it was correct and I hear my friend laughing in the background as this crazy…. happy person proceeds to draw me into conversation.

I can’t remember he said.   I just remember how he said it.

He was…. funny.
Stupid funny.
A complete stranger and yet…  not.

My friend got on the line and I heard the words “party”, “come”, “tonight” and before I knew it, I was hanging up to get ready to drive somewhere I’d never been before. Taking another wild chance, on my own.

Funny how your mind works because I was intrigued and excited and scared out of my wits all at the same time. The freedom I felt was intoxicating and yet foreign and  I had to keep telling myself that this was “normal”… people socialize all the time.. yes, it was good to go.

Stepping out the door into the hazy gray softness of twilight, the heat of the day still radiating from the pavement,  I clearly remember  glancing at the sky and catching sight of the moon—round and full of promise.

Suddenly, I felt like that moon:
fat and hopeful,
bright and courageous.

The Honey Moon

And God as my witness, I looked straight into the face of that laughing moon and I knew it.
I felt it…. and  I said it out loud:

“Tonight I will meet the man I’m going to marry.”
I meant it.
And I did.
June 16, 1989.
Twenty five years ago today.

Five months later we’d stand together before a JP and a handful of family and friends and swear we’d do whatever it was we were supposed to do from that point on…. forever.

Like we knew what forever meant!  Lawd….. at that moment, forever was the furthest thing from our minds and yet, when it was all over, there we were— married and our forever had begun.

You know, some people think forever is a long time…. as if it’s a long way off or someplace you get to eventually  or achieve.   I disagree.

Forever is actually…. always…  right now.  It’s always today and each day the choice is made to keep on going within it.

Today, June 16, 2014  is  a piece of my forever….what we like to call our “Little Anniversary”, the anniversary of the day we met. It means more than the day we married.

For both of us, it was a life altering moment.

For me in particular,  it was a shot in the dark… aiming at a minuscule glimmer of hope on the horizon. A moment of near-blind faith and trusting in what little I knew of God to be true…that good was still possible…and still out there somewhere,   for me.

Trusting I had not been abandoned without hope.


And people…. I KNOW…. the struggle is real.

I don’t care where you come from or how long you’ve known each other or were engaged, I’m convinced that no two people come to this place without a lot of wreckage in their wake.  There’s a lot of necessary casting off and taking on. There’s a lot of death and dying to self along the way…and many, many moments of resurrection.

I’m humbled by the realization that there was a time in our recent history when we came
—> this<— close to losing it all and not making it to this day.

When the deep wounds of our pasts would find their way to the surfaces of our individual lives and threatened to poison and kill our marriage.
When there was nothing left to do but slice ourselves open and deal with it all.
When all we could do is  trust and allow God to cleanse,  purify and heal these hurt places in us once and for all.

Painful stuff.

Hard and yet so necessary….

and so beautiful.

Long Term Marriage

Twenty-five years… of coming  so close to becoming a statistic.… and choosing  instead to  listen beyond the noise of the waves crashing on the breakers and fight our way out into the calm of wide-open seas.

Only because we did…. with God’s help…. can we celebrate the gift of our lives together — every day that’s passed between then and now and every day we’ll share from this day forward … forever.

Because forever isn’t far away…. it’s  today.  

Because maybe you need to hear this:  there’s still hope. Keep fighting for it.

It’s worth the struggle…and today, it’s what I know.

I am blessed and grateful beyond measure.

fighting the good fight,Lorretta signature