Monday, March 16, 2009

The Gift

It’s no secret, I’ve had a very colorful life. It seems from birth it’s been just one drama after another so I suppose it’s only natural that I am quite a drama queen. One of the most colorful times in my life was when I left college in my second year to follow an Army boy to Germany. It was supposed to be a quick, fun visit, but it turned into a few years… of hell.

His name, well that’s not important, but he and I were engaged and I thought I was in love. Although it’s hard to really call a guy your official “fiancé” when he is already married to someone else AND you are paying for the engagement ring yourself. Ladies… if either of these things are true in your current relationship, please run! If both are true… run VERY FAST. He was an alcoholic and was abusive, physically and emotionally. I became homeless upon entering Germany but for some reason, I stayed. My fiancé was troubled and I wanted to be the one to save him. I also wanted to prove to myself I could make him love me enough that he would stop drinking. All in all, it wasn’t a very good experience. I failed at both things… I didn’t save anyone and he didn’t stop drinking for me. I left connecting those dots in a way that told me I just wasn’t loveable.

I was so relieved when it was finally over… I mean I couldn’t wait to get back on American soil. So, if it was so bad and I was so relieved, why was it that I was bawling my eyes out on the airplane ride home? Oh yes… I remember. Her name was Kristine.

There were a few redeeming things that happened while I resided half-way around the world. I met Alexandra, a friend I still have today. I taught her how to speak English and she taught me how to say some very naughty things in German. I also met an American family that was in need of a nanny. I began caring for little Kristine very early in her life, maybe 3 months old. Her parents, Tom and Nancy, were very kind to me. Tom was the one who got me into reading. Thinner by Stephen King was the first book he shared with me. His influence to read is what led me to writing. Nancy was someone who showed me that being a mom didn’t mean you weren’t cool or fun. She also showed me something that is hard to explain in words but I’ll try.

During my employment with the family, Nancy, who was a nurse for the Army, was deployed to Somalia for an extended period of time. For more than 6 months, Nancy would be away from her husband and her little baby girl. As a wife and mom, I simply cannot imagine that. She did it with grace though. She came home a few times for a visit and in those times she showed me something beautiful I have never forgotten. If I had been in her shoes, I would have probably hated me, the nanny. I probably would have been jealous that someone else was getting to see my baby girl grow up… but not Nancy. She treated me with nothing but love and respect. If she had any of those feelings, she certainly didn’t show them to me. She set an amazing example in her actions.

Kristine was an amazing little girl. She literally didn’t cry unless she needed something. She was so mild tempered and well behaved, although I do remember one very intense cheerio tossing showdown in the living room. I really couldn’t have been blessed with an easier child to care for. She was fun too, and smart. It was like she yearned for information…for new skills. I think we watched Beauty & the Beast 500 times. I really bonded with Kristine in the time I cared for her. I still have a giant piece of paper that we drew all over one day… I traced her hand and wrote the date. I’m so glad I did that.

Yes, I bawled my eyes out the day I flew away from my nightmare, but it wasn’t about the Army boy who had broken my heart or the pride I had to suck up to beg my parents for a plane ride home… it was about having to say goodbye to Kristine; the little girl who had stolen a piece of my heart.

Even though I wasn’t a very active or knowledgeable Christian at that time, I spent years after my return being mad at God for allowing me to be so beat up through those years. I wondered why He hadn’t protected me. I figured He just didn’t care for me enough to throw me a lifeline in those years. I just knew, God had abandoned me.

Sobriety and recovery gave me the opportunity to clean up all the garbage that had zapped the color from my world through the years. One of the things I had to do is admit… I was mad at God. And I wasn’t just a little mad, I was A LOT MAD! I am brought to tears just typing that! I mean, what kind of God would allow a person such as myself to go through so much pain?? (If you’re not familiar with my whole story you can read it at ) The sad thing is that I didn’t even tell the whole story there. Well, recovery taught me about this thing called taking responsibility for my own actions… hmmm… and I realized a lot of the things that happened to me were a direct result of my own decisions and pride. Not all of them, but most. Even so, I wondered why our powerful, merciful God would have allowed me to be beaten so badly while I was in Germany. Why God… why didn’t You protect me???

One day I think God got a little tired of me asking that question and He decided to show me things from a different angle. He gave me some BFR’s (blinding flashes of reality) that finally gave me my answer. Yep, there was no doubt life had been hard but I was focusing on the wrong stuff. I was totally dismissing all the gifts He had given me in that time. I began to see things in a different light. Let me tell you a story, and maybe you will see it too…

I was 18, homeless and jobless in Germany. My debt was growing by the day. It was winter so I was cold and hungry. I felt totally useless! I was in a county where I didn’t speak the language and I had very few skills at the ripe old age of 18. Virtually the only job I could have ever done was be a nanny but I couldn’t find anyone who needed a nanny. The abuse had begun and I was sad, lonely and scared. I felt very unloved and unworthy of love.

It was Christmas and I was with my fiancé at his Army barracks packing up a few little presents to send back home to my family. As I was stuffing the boxes with extra newspaper – something caught my eye. I saw an ad for an Army family who needed a nanny. I perked up… quickly I realized the paper was a few months old. I figured the position was surely filled by now. But I called anyway, just to be sure. I will never forget the shock in Tom’s voice to be receiving a call for an ad he had placed in the paper so long before. As it turned out, they needed a nanny just as much as I needed a job.

So how exactly did that come to pass… me being in possession of a nanny ad that was run before I even entered the country? Herein lies God’s angle. He says to me, “Silly daughter…I gave you Tom, Nancy and Kristine. In that package I gifted you with a home, a job, money, warmth, nourishment, usefulness, smiles, connection, security, a place to be cared for, and a place to give love.” So maybe there was a lot of craziness in my life while I was away from little Kristine, but the truth of the matter was this… the reprieve I got while around that family, is exactly HOW God protected me.

When God finally got me to realize that, I felt very selfish and ungrateful. Later, I realized that it wasn’t a matter of selfishness, it was a matter of not looking at the right thing. It’s so easy to focus on the bad parts of every situation and totally miss the lifeline. Today, I’m not angry about that time in my life. I have faced my bad decisions and accepted them. I have even fully forgiven the ex-fiancé, which was no easy task (believe me) but God made it happen when the time was right. I am so very thankful for that time in my life, even the hard stuff.

I guess I always sort of regarded myself as just some “mixed up kid” that passed thru the lives of Tom and Nancy. I knew they were in desperate need of a nanny but I always kind of figured they were also being a bit charitable by giving me a chance. Now that I am a mom, I even see that in a very different light. A good parent does not leave their child with just some “mixed up kid” no matter how desperate or charitable they may be feeling. I mean, when I think about the amount of trust it takes for me to have someone babysit Brett or the barrels I made his pre-school jump over before I enrolled him, it became clear to me, they left Kristine with me because they trusted and believed in me.

There have been many times through the years when I have wondered if I did Kristine justice in the way cared for her. I mean, I was really insecure and sad back then… but I did the best I could. I tried my hardest to be good for her and protect her from anything and everything. It’s one of those things I’ve just had to give to God and have faith that I did more good than harm. I will forever hold a very special place in my heart for the little girl who let me love her and loved me back at a time when I felt so unlovable. Thank you Kristine!

When it comes to asking God why He didn’t do what we thought He should have done, I think our first job is to recognize the gifts he has already given us. It’s quite possible the lifeline that was so desperately needed was thrown out to you and you missed it. Our second job, once we notice it, is to allow that gift to grow and nurture us, for if we do, the anger and hurt will heal. That healing grows into beauty that can never be tainted with regret. The best way for me to show you proof of this is to show you exactly how the gift God gave me back in 1992 has grown into incredible beauty. I found Kristine on Facebook last week and here she is…

17 years and counting; a face that forever changed my life, a true gift from God in so many ways. She is a charming, gorgeous young lady who has the world ahead of her. I have truly enjoyed reconnecting with her and I hope that will continue for years to come. I don’t think the paths we cross in life are ever an accident. I’d do it all over again in a second! But just for the record, I might feel just a tad old right now looking at her senior picture.

Jesus told us… “…in this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world." John 16:33


  1. Wow, it's touching to hear the story and see the pictures that go with it. Thanks for sharing~

  2. Great story and a great lesson.