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Saturday, April 22, 2017

"Out of Control:" Chapter 16

For the explanation of my current series, go to the first installment: http://bit.ly/2nnCvFx

Out of Control:
A Christian Parent’s Victorious Struggle with Child Abuse

A Memoir by Kathy Collard Miller

Chapter 16
Loved

September 15th

Picking up the phone, I heard a woman's voice say, "Kathy Miller, please."

"That's me."

"Kathy, this is Joy from Christian Women's Club. We've noticed how regularly you come to the monthly luncheons and wonder whether you'd consider serving as Nursery Chairman on our new board beginning in October. We'd really love to have you serve the Lord with us."

"Oh, my. What would the position entail?"

"It means you would attend the luncheons to collect the money for the babysitters, and also come to the two other board meetings we have each month."

"Oh, I see." I was flattered they wanted me to join their board but I knew I couldn't agree to that kind of a commitment with all the other things I had to do. I know what Larry will say if I take on another responsibility.

"Well," I answered, "I'm really glad you thought of me. But... uh, I really don't think I could at this time. My son who is only nine months old is still nursing so it's hard for me to leave him for very long. And I'm involved in another organization too. So I don't think I could. But I really do appreciate you asking me. I enjoy the luncheons so much and you women certainly do a great job of putting it together."

Joy's disappointed voice replied,"I'm sorry it won't work out now, but do keep us in mind for the future, ok?"

We said goodbye.

I smiled as I thought about Joy's offer. It would be exciting to be involved in something bringing women closer to Christ. The peace in my heart confirmed my decision. 

But within a few days, the thought of joining the board resurfaced in my mind. And even though I continued to bury the thought, it kept digging itself out of the hole. Besides, it's too late now, they must have found someone else.

A week later, another woman from the club called. "Kathy, the Lord hasn't filled that position yet. We're wondering if he's keeping it open for you."

Unable to restrain myself, I giggled. "Well, as a matter of fact, I have been thinking about it. Can I call you back after I've prayed and also talked to my husband?"

The next morning I talked it over with Larry. "You really think this is what the Lord wants you to do?"

I was a little surprised when it seemed right to say, "Yes, I do."

"Then it seems fine with me."

Bursting with joy, I clapped my hands. "Thank you, Jesus, thank you. You want me to do it."

I eagerly looked forward to the first board meeting where the new officers would be introduced. For several days before that, Mark began to refuse to nurse. He's only nine months old. Darcy nursed till she was fifteen months. This seems so strange. There doesn't seem to be anything wrong happening though. He's eating solid food well.

The morning of the board meeting, I stood at the sink washing the breakfast dishes when it hit me. Of course, this will help me leave him in the nursery longer for the luncheons and the extra meetings. Oh, Lord, your perfect timing. Thank you for this confirmation.

You are doing all this for me, aren't you? I can't believe it. You're showing me over and over again you are specifically leading me. Your hand is upon me. Even though I'm a child abuser and I'm not in complete control, yet, you still love me. (Tweet that!) I'm important to you and you haven't given up on me.

Tears brimmed in my eyes, then plopped into the sudsy dishwater. The realization of God's love for me was overwhelming. "God loves me ... again!" I cried out loud, hesitantly mouthing the word "again."

He had never stopped loving me, but the light of that fact had been dissipated in my heart by anger and depression. But now the full strength of that light dispersed all the gloom. 

I love you, Lord. I love you so very much! Astonished, I paused in thought. I haven't told God I love him for so long. It's been such a long time since I've felt loved by him and felt loving toward him. But now I want to shout it from the rooftops. God has shown me how much he loves me and I love him, too. He wants me to serve him; he wants to guide me; he wants me to receive his love and hope.

I couldn't wipe the joyous smile off my face for a week--and I didn't want to. Darcy's temper tantrums didn't bother me. God loves me. Mark's teething fussiness didn't phase me. God cares for me. The messy house didn't overwhelm me. God is guiding me.

Larry couldn't believe the change. "What's going on with you?"

I exclaimed, "Honey, God loves me. He's shown me how much he loves me. Can you believe it?"

Larry's quizzical look didn't dilute my joy. "But I thought you knew he loved you."

"Yes, but I had lost the joy of his love, of realizing he specifically loves and cares about my life. He has been showing me in many ways including having more patience. Even loving you."

From Larry's grin, I could tell he knew I was teasing. But there was more truth in it than he realized.

Chapter 17: http://bit.ly/2puqGdp

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Friday, April 21, 2017

"Out of Control:" Chapter 15

For the explanation of my current series, go to the first installment: http://bit.ly/2nnCvFx

Out of Control:
A Christian Parent’s Victorious Struggle with Child Abuse

A Memoir by Kathy Collard Miller

Chapter 15
Seven Steps

August 1st

I glanced at the many rows of book racks and was amazed. This Christian bookstore had added a lot of books and items since I had last been here. How was I ever going to choose a book for my neighbor, Alice, to read in the hospital. 

Then a title in the family section caught my eye. Picking it up, I read Understanding the Male Temperament by Tim LaHaye. I laughed. Boy, could I stand to learn about Larry's temperament. The more I looked through it, the more interested I became. Maybe if I understand Larry, I won't always be trying to change him. I decided I would buy it along with something else for Alice.

That afternoon, when Darcy and Mark both went down for their naps easily, I praised the Lord. Now I could start my book. Two hours later I was still reading and thrilled the kids were still asleep. Fascinated, I read about the four different temperaments Mr. LaHaye described. I identified Larry's temperament--and mine. No wonder he reacts the way he does. And no wonder I react the way I do. I've always known Larry doesn't look at things the same way I do, but I've never understood why. Now I know. 

For the next couple of days, I read every spare moment I could. I began to understand my melancholy temperament often resulted in perfectionism. For the first time, I acknowledged I was one. What a revelation. I was strangely encouraged and prayed, "Lord, keep showing me what's going on inside me feeding my anger."

Toward the end of the book, Mr. LaHaye included "How to Cure Anger, Bitterness, or Resentment." (Tweet that!) A spark of hope lit within my heart as I read the section. Lord, is this another reason you prompted me to buy this book?

I read eagerly the first step: "Face your anger as sin." I didn't know if I wanted to call my anger sin all the time. But maybe it was. "Okay, Father, I'm going to start off on the right foot by telling you I agree my anger habit is wrong, that it is sin. Please forgive me."

Okay, good start. Step two was "Confess every angry thought or deed as soon as it occurs." That was interesting because I tended to wait until bedtime to confess my sins from the day. Following this step would be different, and maybe important.

"Ask God to take away this angry pattern" was step three. Okay, I will again even though I've been begging for that for almost a year. Here goes. Father, I ask you to take away my angry thought pattern. My faith is weak but help my unbelief.

Step four said: "Forgive the person who has caused your anger." Darcy! Larry! They were the two people I most often was angry with. But forgive them? I was the one who needed forgiveness. But weren't they imperfect and had failed me? I was expecting them to meet my needs and they couldn't do it. 

All right, Lord, I ask you to help me forgive them. I know you are using them to make me more of the godly woman you want me to be. I just keep taking this mass of clay off your potter's wheel. Help me stay there!

"Formally give thanks for anything that bothers you," spelled out number five. This was becoming ridiculous. It might take all day to follow through on this step. Everything bothered me. As I clicked off in my mind a long list, I realized these were the temptations I needed to watch for.

I jumped up from the sofa and retrieved a piece of paper and pen, writing them down. I put it beside Darcy's list on the refrigerator.

Returning to the couch, I read for the sixth step: "Think only good, wholesome, and positive thoughts." I knew this would be difficult. Lately I couldn't see hardly anything good in my life. How can I change that? Remembering how someone had told me in the past about a "blessings list," I made another list. I was shocked how many things I was able to come up with. Even though I felt ridiculous, I put that list on the refrigerator too.

Finally I came to the last step: "Repeat the above formula each time you are angry." I laughed but I understood the importance. This wasn't going to be a one time thing, but a process. I didn't particularly like that idea. I had been praying for an instantaneous deliverance. But since God hadn't answered that with a "yes," I decided I needed to give God time to work through these ideas. 

Not only did I write out the seven steps--another list for the refrigerator!--I wrote out verses on index cards referring to anger and put them in different places in the house. On my bathroom mirror, the card with Proverbs 10:12 reminded me how to love Darcy: "Hatred stirs up strife, but love covers all offenses." I memorized it and repeated it to myself often. It reminded me that my anger had only made things worse, not better. Why would I choose it?

As the next few weeks went along, I went through the steps over and over again and it seemed like I wasn't reacting with as much anger. And if I did, it wasn't explosive. The light at the end of the train tunnel was growing. Maybe God loved me and my family after all.




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Thursday, April 20, 2017

"Out of Control:" Chapter 14

For the explanation of my current series, go to the first installment: http://bit.ly/2nnCvFx

Out of Control:
A Christian Parent’s Victorious Struggle with Child Abuse

A Memoir by Kathy Collard Miller

Chapter 14

Love Is...

July 10th

"Honey, I just have to thank you again for the wonderful surprise party. That was something else. You really did surprise me." Larry wrapped his arms around me, squeezing tightly.

"I was really excited planning it," I said, returning his smile. "Just wait until you see the movies of you walking in that door. You won't believe the amazed look on your face."

But Larry's appreciative words weren't what I really wanted. Had he spent more time with me this week? No! He had been just as consumed by his work as usual. What did I have to do to get his attention anyway? Kill myself?

When Agnes and Neil's invitation came a week later inviting us to a neighborhood barbecue, I thought, This will be Larry's opportunity to show me how appreciative he is.

When I mentioned the invitation to Larry, he replied, "Unfortunately, I already told Fred I'd work to repay him for a time he worked for me. I'm really sad I have to miss it."

I turned away disappointed. Now, Kathy, don't get upset. He didn't do it on purpose; it just happened. Don't blame him; it's not his fault.

Even though I realized it wasn't his choice to work, I wanted to blame him.

When Saturday arrived, Larry got ready to leave. Walking over to me, he commented, "Honey, I'm really sorry I can't go to the barbecue with you. It sounds like a lot of fun and I would have enjoyed being with you and the kids."

I stared straight into his eyes. "Really, Larry? Do you mean that? You really would have gone if it hadn't been for your promise to Fred?"

Larry appeared surprised. "Of course, Kathy. Don't you think I want to go?"

My mind raced. I didn't want to get into another argument. How could I share my feelings without complaining?

"Well, it's just I miss you so much and it seems like--you'll notice, I said seems like--every time there is something to do, you have to work. I just wonder sometimes if you even want to be with me and the kids."

Larry's hazel eyes softened. "I'm sorry I give you that impression. But I assure you I really do want to be with you. As soon as we get on our feet financially, I'll have more time to spend with you. I promise."

For the first time, I believed him. He really did want to be with us. I decided I would stop complaining and trust his love for me from then on. 

Later as neighbors enjoyed the barbecue, I sat down beside Ted, with Darcy between us. She immediately chomped on her hot dog. No wonder she's hungry, she ran around like crazy.

Ted brushed Darcy's bangs back from her sweaty forehead. "Darcy, you're such a good little girl."

Pride welled up within me. "Yes, Darcy is a good little girl. Although she does sometimes remind me of the little girl in the nursery rhyme who when she was good was very, very good, but when she was bad, she was horrid."

Ted laughed.

Kissing Darcy on the top of her head, the love I felt at that moment brought tears to my eyes. I really do love you, Darcy.

But then guilt snickered inside me. How can you say you love her when you teat her so badly? Confused poked, What kind of love hits and kicks and slaps and ...

As the battle continued in my mind, I wondered, "Why do I hate her so much when she's naughty? Can love exist alongside hate?"

Then a long lost memory surfaced of attending a conference where the speaker said, "Love is a choice for the highest good of the person."

That's the answer. Love is a choice, not a feeling. I do love Darcy. I just have to learn to express my love in choices for her good.

Later, sitting around a picnic table, I visited with several neighbors who were in the Bible study. Mary asked, "Kathy, how are you doing controlling your anger? I've been praying for you."

"Well, uh..." I forced a smile and my face grew hot. "I have my ups and downs. When Darcy makes mistakes and does dumb things I have the hardest time."

"Kathy, I think that's because she's a child." Julie spoke up. 

"Yea, I know," I replied, "but it's so aggravating."

"I agree, Kathy," Mary said. "I once made a list based on a child development book of everything a child Jeremy's age might do, like spill milk, or not pick up his toys, or not share. I put the list on the refrigerator and instead of getting angry, I put a check beside that behavior. I still gave him consequences but I realized he wasn't doing it on purpose."

Everyone murmured their approval.

"Wow, Mary," I whispered as I fought tears. "That's a great idea. I'll do it."

Julie commented, "I'm so excited. Emily is finally potty trained. It took so long and there were several times I gave up realizing she wasn't ready. That sure diminished my frustration."

I'd also given up potty training Darcy and at least that hadn't been bothering me. But maybe it's time to try again. Later, as I walked home with the kids, I reasoned, "Well, if she doesn't respond right away or I can't handle it, I can always quit. I'm going to do it."

When I made the list of what to expect from an almost-three-year-old for the refrigerator, (Tweet that!) I wrote down, "Darcy will have lots of potty training accidents." For once I felt more confident of something which would help me. Thank you, Lord, for guiding me.


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Wednesday, April 19, 2017

"Out of Control:" Chapter 13

For the explanation of my current series, go to the first installment: http://bit.ly/2nnCvFx



Out of Control:
A Christian Parent’s Victorious Struggle with Child Abuse

A Memoir by Kathy Collard Miller

Chapter 13 
Surprise Party

June 25th

"Yes, Claudia, that's right. The party is this Saturday. I'm glad you can come." I was relieved Claudia had called to let me know the invitation had arrived safely. I hoped I hadn't forgotten anyone.

"Kathy, how are you going to make the party a surprise if you're having it at your house?"

"That's the best part. I had Jim ask Larry to play tennis with him that afternoon. Everyone will arrive at 2:30 and Jim will bring him back at 3. Doesn't that sound great? I'm so excited. You know, I've never done anything like this before. I sure hope it works."

"Well, it sounds foolproof to me. I just hope Larry feels like playing tennis that day."

"That's the least of my worries. Larry will play tennis any chance he gets. What he may not like, though, is coming home all sweaty and tired to find twenty people waiting for him. And guess what? I'm going to have a casket here."

"What?"

"Yes, a casket. Sandy's husband made a wooden casket for a Halloween party they had and he's bringing it with them. Can you believe that?"

"That is hilarious. Wow. Maybe you can get him to lay down in it."

"I'm not counting on that, but we'll see. That would be fabulous, though. Hey, gotta go. Still have lots to do. See you Saturday."

I hung up smiling. If this doesn't earn his love, nothing will.

During the next few days, Darcy really got on my nerves. I had so much to think about and organize, and she seemed to sense my tension, demanding even more attention from me than usual. As I tried to plan the menu, she wanted to play with modeling clay which I knew would make a big mess. But I also knew saying no would only elicit persistent begging and a temper tantrum. I was not prepared to handle that, so I relented.

In the meantime, my mind swirled with plans. I'll make the cake on Friday night while Larry is at work. Sally can keep it at her house until the next day.

On Saturday morning, I could barely sit still. I tried to keep busy by cleaning the house. But Darcy and even Mark seemed to sense my nervousness, whining and crying for attention.

"Darcy, please let me get the house clean," I pleaded. It would be so embarrassing to let people see my messiness and dirty floors. 

Finally, the house was beginning to look better and I hoped Larry hadn't noticed my unusual furious pace.

As he walked out the door at one, I grabbed Mark and could smell his diaper. I had changed him just thirty minutes before but now I'd be delayed even if only for a few moments. I had no time to spare.  

After putting him in the crib with a clean diaper and shutting the door, I walked down the hall, but heard him crying. That's funny. He usually goes right to sleep.

When I walked back in, he reached out to me. "No, Mark, don't do this to me. You're my good baby. Go to sleep."

Although he continued to cry after I left the room I had to get Darcy down for her nap. When I explained she needed to go to sleep because friends were coming, I realized that was a mistake. She had a thousand questions I had no time for. I raised my voice to make my point for her to sleep and closed her door behind me. 

By the time I'd rocked Mark to sleep and rushed into the kitchen to continue working, I gasped when I saw Darcy sitting on the tile surrounded by hundreds of tiny pieces of modeling clay. "Oh no, why did I leave that out on the counter?"

I raised my hand and shot it down, slapping Darcy's cheek. She covered her face with her hands and screamed hysterically. "I don't care if you cry all day. I need to get too much ready! Can't you ever do anything right?"

By the time I'd picked up most of the mess, my anger had seeped out of me and Darcy's tear-filled face crushed my heart. "Oh, God, I've done it again. Is there no hope for me? Please help me! I've been so patient lately. I thought I was over this."

I picked up Darcy roughly and headed to Sally's to retrieve the cake. My shame covered me like a water-soaked blanket and I couldn't even look at Darcy, much less apologize. By the time I returned home, I put Darcy in front of the TV for a cartoon and readied as much as I could in the time left.

By the time everyone arrived, the house buzzed with excitement. When Larry walked in the door totally shocked with everyone singing "Happy Birthday," I stood beside him with a big grin. "Happy Birthday, Honey. I love you." 

"Oh wow," he exclaimed. "I can't believe it. You've got to be kidding."

He draped his arm over my shoulders and gave me a hug. "How did  you pull this off?"

"Not very easily," I joked, but I knew the price had been high--too high.




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Tuesday, April 18, 2017

"Out of Control:" Chapter 12

For the explanation of my current series, go to the first installment: http://bit.ly/2nnCvFx

Out of Control:
A Christian Parent’s Victorious Struggle with Child Abuse



A Memoir by Kathy Collard Miller


Chapter 12
Celebrate!

June 20th

"Honey, this is a really nice restaurant. I'm so glad we came here." I don't know why but I'd been surprised Larry had chosen so generously. 

"I thought you would enjoy it. After all, it's not every day we get to celebrate our seventh anniversary. Happy anniversary!" Larry raised his water goblet into the air. I lifted mine to meet his, gently clinking them together in a toast. 

Seven years before, June 20, 1970, we were married. I could hardly believe it. As I savored my prime rib, I mused over the ten years since I'd met Larry at a high school water polo game. 

"Do you know what the most significant part of our history together is for me?" I reflected out loud. "It is how the Lord used you in my life to bring me to him. If you hadn't taken me to your church, I might not have heard Jesus wanted me to know him personally. Thank you, honey."

Larry's grin caused a flood of emotions to well up within me. It was the same easy-going smile I remembered from our courting days that had made me feel so special. My insecurity had thirsted for his love and acceptance. Those feelings seemed long dead now and a wave of sadness hit me. 

Larry broke into my thoughts. "Sweetie, you look so sad. What are you thinking about?"

Pushing my creamed peas around on my plate, I stammered, "Oh, I was just thinking... about...uh...how you met so many of my needs when we were dating."

"Well, don't I meet them now too?" he laughed.

I tried to laugh. "Well, I would love for you to spend more time with me."

Larry's smile faded. "Oh, that again. I've told you I'm trying to gain financial security for our family and that means I need to work longer hours. Believe me, it'll pay off in the end. You'll see."

My chest tightened in a familiar way I knew so well these days. "Sweetheart, I know you want to do that. But I would rather have you around than money. I want you." (Tweet that!)

Larry rolled his eyes upward. "You just don't understand. I've explained it to you before."

Oh no, now we're going to argue on our anniversary. Boy, did I say the wrong thing. 

"Have you noticed how Mark is sitting up for a few seconds already?" I tried to giggle. "He's such a good baby. Hope he lives through Darcy picking on him."

Larry's effort to laugh at the changed subject made me realize the argument had been dropped. We were at a truce again, but it felt like we both stood on the edge of a precipice and any gust of wind could blow us over into the abyss.

We continued chatting about our upcoming birthdays. We were only four days apart--four days after our anniversary. I tried to stifle a sneaky smile. Larry didn't know I was planning a surprise party for him. 

I didn't want to admit to myself my motives were mixed. Of course, I wanted to celebrate his birthday but deep in my heart I hoped he would treat me better if I did something nice for him. Since I've always wanted a surprise birthday party, he must want that too. It's going to be so fun. Wait until he walks in the door.




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