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Wednesday, April 26, 2017

"Out of Control:" Epilogue

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


April, 2017

Chapter 19 occurred at Christmas, 1977. As I've rehearsed in detail my story through re-typing these chapters into my blog, it has been a bitter-sweet experience. Although I've shared my story over five hundred times at speaking engagements and through articles, plus pointing to it in various forms in my books, this is the first time in a very long time I've focused on the details. At times I was brought to tears thinking of the violence and pain I inflicted on my precious daughter, a gift from God. I cringed as I faced the reality of how she, as an unprotected child, must have felt. Her confusion and fear seem even more real to me. As a lay counselor, I've heard the stories from adults who tell of that kind of childhood and it breaks my heart. And to think I was one of those abusive parents breaks it twice-fold.

Yet God in his gracious love knew the plan for restoration of our family and even empowered Darcy to forgive me for the pain I inflicted on her. Though I feared she could never possibly want a relationship with me, we are very close. She has wanted God glorified through the telling of our story. She loves God and seeks him as she is now a loving wife and mother of two. 

We are also close to our son Mark. And yes, Larry and I experience a wonderful and wonder-filled joyful marriage (tweet that!) far beyond what I could ever have imagined or desired at that Christmas. We are not only best friends, our passion is to see God glorified through our lives and ministry. We are on the "same page" of purpose and mission.

My desire is that you would have ever greater trust and hope in God regardless of your temptations, challenges, and failures. God is indeed the God of everlasting love and mercy.

If you are reading this and have never encountered this loving God as one who saw your need for rescue from your sin and sent his most precious Son Jesus to die for you on Calvary's cross, you can tell him you need him as your only source of saving. Whether your sin is like mine--uncontrolled anger, bitterness, and discontent--or something seemingly less destructive, you indeed have sinned. Only God is perfect. Face your need of a Savior and confess your sin and submit to him. He is calling to you and wants to redeem you and become the Lord of your life. You'll still have many challenges, but you'll have his power for this earthly life and you'll enjoy his presence in heaven. 

I'd love to hear from you through my website's contact form: www.KathyCollardMiller.com.

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

"Out of Control:" Chapter 19

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 19
In Control

December 3rd

November stepped aside to make room for a festive December. It was hard to believe Christmas would soon be here. Darcy grew more excited each day thinking all the toys, dolls, and miscellaneous trinkets advertised on television were going to be hers.

November had meant celebrating Thanksgiving. But for me every day was a thanksgiving, a giving of thanks and praise to the Lord who was delivering me from my anger.

At the December Christian Women's Club board meeting, Joy announced plans for the board's Christmas party. It was to be a formal evening for couples and sounded exciting. But when she informed us it would be on Tuesday night, December twentieth, I felt disappointment fill my heart--Larry worked on Tuesday nights.

When I mentioned the party to him the next day, his saddened face disclosed it would be impossible for him to take the night off. But somehow, an unexpected peace grew within my heart as I calmly told him, "Sweetheart, I'm sure if the Lord wants you to go with me, he'll somehow find a way for it to happen."

Larry's skeptical frown almost pricked my ballooning hope, but I reminded myself of Proverbs 3:5-6 which I had been trying to keep at the center of my thoughts for the last week. "Trust in the Lord with all your heart and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will  make your paths straight." Even if it meant going to the party by myself, I was determined to trust the Lord and not get uptight. 

I still experienced eruptions of anger and frustration, but it wasn't unbridled anger any longer. I was in control through God's power. Life was beautiful and Jesus never seemed so real. My devotions took on a new luster like the sparkling Christmas ornaments around me. Even though my marriage wasn't exactly the way I wanted it to be, I believed the Lord was going to make it a lot better one day. I just had to wait for his timing. For right now, I was content to continue accepting Larry as he was and to work on greater patience and joy.

The next couple of days were filled with shopping, baking, and sending out Christmas cards. Christmas was approaching all too fast. Christmas dinner at my home for ten family members was foremost in my thoughts and plans. I hadn't had time to even think about the board's Christmas party.

Then one day Larry mentioned, "You'll never guess what my boss told me last night. I have too many vacation hours on the books and have to take some time off before the new year otherwise I lose them completely. Isn't that wild?"

I jerked my head towards him. "Honey," I exclaimed, "that's the answer to my prayer. Now you can go to the board Christmas party. Can you ask for next Tuesday, the twentieth, off?"

He smiled. "Yeah, that's right. That's great. Sure I can. Now, they'll have to let me have it off."

I could barely sit still as I grinned at him. Thank you, Jesus, you did it. I trusted you and you did it.

Larry's smile grew as I hugged him. "Kathy, the Lord has answered your prayer. I wasn't sure he could do it but he did."

My excitement grew all that week after Larry confirmed he could have the night off.

On Tuesday evening, we arrived at the fancy restaurant of a local hotel. I was truly grateful Larry was beside me as we ate the delicious food and enjoyed the special entertainment. 

Five days later on Christmas morning, Darcy woke us early as expected. She was so excited about seeing what Santa Claus had brought her. Instructing her to stay in her room, Larry, my mother, and I turned on the Christmas tree lights and made sure the camera was ready to capture her delight as she saw her gifts for the first time. I opened the drapes. The dawn's soft pink light filtered into the room creating a fairyland effect on the presents. The blinking tree lights cast red, blue, and orange shadows on the walls and my spirit was illuminated with hope and joy.

Christmas morning ... the day we celebrate our Savior's birth and the first step in his journey for our salvation. And this was the morning of the birth of a life free from hurting Darcy, free from uncontrolled anger, (Tweet that!) free from condemnation and hate. As a cocoon opens to reveal a ready-to-fly butterfly, my life was opening also--to love, faith, and patience. Christmas morning... God's gift of Jesus and God's gift of abundant life for me and my family.

(If the last link isn't working, check back tomorrow or sign up on my home page to subscribe for free to receive each post by email.)

Monday, April 24, 2017

"Out of Control": Chapter 18

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 18

November 15th

Mom and I relaxed on my living room couch planning Thanksgiving dinner, only a week away. Darcy handed me her doll to dress and then brought in a game to play. I realized she didn't want to be left out. 

"Darcy, would you like us to play ball with you?" I knew we could talk even as we played.

"Grandma and I will roll the ball on the carpet and you can jump over it, okay?"

Darcy's eyes brightened in delight and she squealed with joy each time she jumped over the rolling ball.

"Now, what will we serve for dessert?" my mom asked.

"Of course, pumpkin pie and ..." Then I gasped in horror as Darcy jumped on top of the ball. Her feet flew out from beneath her and with a sickening thud, the back of her head slammed down onto the carpet.

I froze as mom reached over and cradled Darcy's rigid body in her arms. A moment later, Darcy's body fell limp and her head dangled over my mom's arm.

I jumped to my feet. "I'm going to call the paramedics." 

I ran to the phone but heard my mom shout, "She's conscious again."

I returned and gathered Darcy into my arms. "Honey, how do you feel?"

Her eyes tried to focus on me. "My head hurts. I want to go to sleep."

I tried to smile realizing that was the only time she ever requested going to bed. But it wasn't funny. I knew it was a sign of concussion. Within fifteen minutes, Darcy and I arrived at the emergency room and I explained what happened. My mom stayed with Mark and promised she would call Larry at work to tell him to meet me. 

The nurse escorted me holding Darcy to a bed surrounded by curtains. The antiseptic smells made my stomach even more queasy.

Dr. Monning walked into our cubicle and introduced himself. He explained they would take a skull x-ray. A few minutes later, a technician arrived and gently lifted Darcy onto a small rolling bed and wheeled her away. 

It seemed like hours later when they returned. Darcy was still asleep and looked so little in the big bed. Her peaceful face appeared angelic and innocent.

"Oh, Darcy," I murmured, "I hope you're going to be all right." I caught myself. "No, that's not true. I don't want you to be all right. I wonder if I would really be that sad if you died. Sometimes I think I hate you. I long to be freed of the responsibilities and burdens of being a mother." I stopped. I'm not supposed to feel this way, I rebuked myself. But I knew I couldn't hold these feelings in any longer. I let my thoughts continue.

I wanted a child so much, Darcy. We tried for three years before you were conceived, and now I wonder whether I want you around at all. You demand so much from me. Sometimes I want to be free.

I felt ashamed, but at the same time, as if a heavy burden were being lifted off my heart. I was finally being honest with myself. Tears welled in my eyes.

Darcy, I haven't hurt you for a long time and I'm not going to again... but I still resent you. (Tweet that!) You seem to want more from me than I am able to give. I'm trying to trust God for the future but I wonder if I've hurt you permanently, psychologically. I read somewhere that children who have been abused usually grow up to abuse their own children.

Oh, Heavenly Father, I don't want that to happen. Please protect Darcy. Please keep her safe from such a future. You know I never wanted to hurt her. You know I'm sorry. Please forgive me and heal Darcy's inner wounds.

I stared at my little girl. Pulling a tissue out of my purse, I wiped my cheeks and blew my nose.

"Kathy, how is she doing?"

Larry's voice startled me. I stood up and reached for his hand. "The doctor hasn't said anything yet. They just took an x-ray. I'm so glad you're here."

Soon Dr. Monning joined us and explained, "She does have a concussion but she'll be fine. There's no damage. Just keep an eye on her extra for twenty-four hours. Wake her up through the night every four hours or so. Call your doctor if you notice anything wrong."

The next day, Darcy played as hard as ever. I watched her and was particularly aware of her bright smile and loving vivaciousness. I would have missed her if she were gone. Thank you Lord, for our delightful daughter who brings joy into our family. I do love her. 

That night as I tucked her into bed, I stroked her bangs back from her forehead. Love overwhelmed me and I wanted to cry in relief.

Darcy, I do love you. I didn't think I did, but the Lord has shown me how much I really do. It still hurts me to think of how I used to hurt you, but I'm going to trust the Lord to heal all of us. In the meantime, I know he has forgiven me.

I kissed her forehead. "Good night, Dars. Sleep tight." I walked to the door and turned off the light.

"Mommy, I love you," Darcy called out. 

I turned to face her in the dark. "Oh, Darcy, I love you very much." I was so glad I could say that and mean it. "Good night honey. You are God's special gift."

Chapter 19: http://bit.ly/2pf9Z9w

(If the last link isn't working, check back tomorrow or sign up on my home page to subscribe for free to receive each post by email.)

Sunday, April 23, 2017

"Out of Control:" Chapter 17

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 17
Not Perfect Yet

October 15th

Three years old. I can't believe it. Darcy turned three on October twelfth. I smiled at her sitting on the floor watching Sesame Street. Oh, Father, thank you for this last month. It has been glorious. I've rarely been out of control, but more importantly, I love you and know you love me. Well, at least, most of the time. And I know now I'll never go back to my old anger habit.

I stared again at my to do list for the family birthday party for Darcy that evening. I was so glad Larry would be off work to help me. He'd left earlier for a real estate appointment that he said wouldn't take long. 

"Oh, wait, did I tell him I needed him to come right home so that he could help me?" I couldn't remember exactly saying that but certainly he would know I needed his help. 

As I stirred the cake mix, I glanced at the clock. "Okay, Darcy, it's ten o'clock; time to turn off the television."

"Longer, mommy, please, longer." Darcy frowned and a small tremor of terror erupted inside me. Not another temper tantrum! They make me feel so defeated.

At first I thought I would let it go, but then I remembered the difference in her obedience when I was consistent. If I said something, I should follow through. And if she disobeyed, immediately give a consequence. Being consistent is working. I'm not going to stop now.

"No, sweetheart. Besides, we're getting ready for your birthday party, remember? Go play with your new toys you received at the kids party." Darcy turned off the television with a flourish of her hand. She will make a good actress some day.

I turned away and headed for the kitchen to grab a pan for the cake. After putting it in the oven, I retrieved the vacuum cleaner out of the hall closet. After vacuuming the living room carpet, I looked over into the family room and saw Darcy--still in front of the television. How did I not hear here turn that back on?"

"Darcy, I told you. No more television." I wanted to yell but I lowered my voice.

Darcy began pounding the floor with her fists.

When are these temper tantrums going to stop? I thought she was over the terrible twos now. At least there has been a slight improvement.

But it's not enough. She's got to learn. As I thought of everything I still needed to do, anger erupted within me. I envisioned me jerking her up by her arm and giving her a hard swat.

My voice rose as I exclaimed, "Darcy, we're going to stop this right now." My long strides placed me within eyesight of the kitchen and my eyes settled on my lists on the refrigerator. I stopped and took a deep breath, exhaling slowly. 

All right, Kathy, calm down. Yes, Darcy disobeyed but she's only a little girl. You're not perfect yet and neither is she. Your anger is not going to make her obey. Remember Proverbs 15:1? "A soft answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger." Anger only enflames the situation. It doesn't accomplish what you want. And it's not a disciplinary tool. Tweet that!

I continued to breathe deeply. I felt calmer as I made a detour into the kitchen to get the wooden spoon to spank her. It had become a good friend because I took the time to retrieve it to calm down. And I couldn't just haul off and smack Darcy. 

I reached Darcy and when she saw the spoon, her mouth dropped open. "No more TV, Mommy. I promise. No spanking, please?"

"Yes, Darcy, I do have to spank you so you'll remember next time not to turn on the television."

After swatting Darcy three times on her bottom firmly but without anger, I cuddled her as we talked about why it was important for her to obey me. Then I diverted the conversation to her birthday party and her face brightened. 

"Darcy, Mommy really needs your help, OK? I'm making your birthday special so please help by playing in your room."

She nodded and jumped off my lap. As I went to check on the cake, I could hear her rustling through the toys in her toy box. 

I looked at my to-do list again. As tension began to constrict my chest, I reminded myself, "It's okay to settle for whatever I can do. I can give up my perfectionistic expectations. No one will care or even know what isn't done." 

Sighing in resignation, I finished dusting and then fixed lunch. The clock was ticking and Larry still wasn't home. Where is he?

Lord, please prompt him to come home soon. I really need him.
But it wasn't until I had the kids down for their afternoon naps that I heard the garage door rise. Larry rushed into the bedroom where I was folding clothes. "Hey, honey, I'm sorry I'm late but I went by Bob's for a while. He's still pretty sick even though he's doing a bit better. He might be able to get back to work in about a month."

I expected my anger to flare but instead, I sensed a peace. Thank you, Lord, you are teaching me to relax in you.

"I'm so glad he's doing better."

Setting his keys down on top of the bureau, he turned to face me. His dark hair and hazel eyes appeared especially handsome. 

He grasped my hands and pulled me down with him onto the bed. "You know what? I sure do appreciate you. I'm glad you're not sick." He wrapped his arms around me. 

I tried to pout but giggled instead. "You do, huh? I don't know if I appreciate you. I wanted you to come right home so that you could help me."

Larry began to pull away his arms but I held them around me.

"It's my fault, don't worry," I interjected. "I forgot to tell you. I thought you would realize it."

"Honey, I can't read your mind. You've got to tell me otherwise I don't know. Of course I'll help you." He started to sit up but I pulled him back.

"Larry, I realize I do expect you to be a mind reader. I'm going to try to remember to share things with you more. So here goes. I need you to set up the extra table and chairs."

We both got up. Larry replied, "Ok, will do, captain." He mocked a salute and headed to the garage. 

That evening, Darcy had a great time at her birthday party. Everything wasn't perfect and I didn't get everything done on my to-do list, but I was more calm and attentive to our guests. I knew I was on my way to victory.

(If the last link isn't working, check back tomorrow or sign up on my home page to subscribe for free to receive each post by email.)

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

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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