Stumbling into Grace
A Prodigal Daughter’s Long Journey Home
It has taken more than half of a century of stumbling through life for me to stop long enough to write about it. This memoir is proof that God can do anything—even change the heart of one who had slapped Him in the face for years on end. I did my best to let my freedom reign, but after thirty-two years of running into one dead end after another, I turned a corner deep inside.
I began to see that the freedom that I had been chasing was a mirage. From a distance, its beauty enticed me, but as I got closer it vanished. The journey taught me that true freedom cannot be found in going my own way. When I think back to that time, I see that God was waiting patiently for me to let go of my way and seek His, so He could give me one of His most precious gifts—grace.
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Growing up as God’s girl, I love Jesus and I know He loves me. But in college I take a rebel’s stand and push all authority, especially God, out of sight. An inheritance makes my charge onto Prodigal Road a reality. As I crisscross the country from valleys to hills, mountains to plains, forests to deserts, cities east and west and, finally, back roads to beaches, freedom takes its toll.
I wander for thirty-two years until the inevitable strikes, and I come face to face with the wreckage of my life. Overwhelmed by grief, I turn my back on the prodigal life, surrender to the Lord and ask for His forgiveness. Not only does He forgive me, He sets me on His path and gives me the assignment of my life.
In addition to my prodigal journey, I struggle with two other difficult circumstances –the devastating highs and lows of Bi-Polar Disorder (stabilized by medication), and grappling with the torment, shame and blame of verbal and emotional abuse.
With guidance, grace and love from the three greatest guys in the whole universe (God the Father, Son and Holy Spirit), I learn that as unlikely as it is, my scattergun life has prepared me to share my experience, strength and hope with others. At last, my mess has become my message.
So, I step out in faith—carrying God’s promise in my heart as I learn to walk in God’s ways.
For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord,
plans to prosper you and not to harm you,
plans to give you hope and a future.
* * *
I began to assemble this book in 2005–editing pieces written years before, writing new ones, then weaving them together to tell this good, bad and not-so-pretty testimonial tale. It was a slow process–one that forced me to endure seemingly endless periods of waiting. Patience has never been my strong suit, but during those uncertain times, I learned the biggest and best lesson of my life—to give up my way and lean on God.
* * *
Stumbling into Grace
Chapter One – Write!
I give all my children free will. You, especially, have excelled in exercising it. Do you know what I mean?
Uh, like I wanted to go my own way, so you let me, with no questions asked, for years on end, which nearly killed me. Is that what you mean?
Chapter Two – The Effervescent God
In the distance, trees appeared to dance in the crisp autumn breeze like ancient giants with their arms flung high overhead, so high it looked as if they could touch the sky.
Chapter Three – Way Out in Left Field
When I finally danced off to college it was to the howling of Janis Joplin. “Freedom’s just another word for nothin’ left to lose…” I identified with that lyric. I had nothing to lose, everything to gain. Why not give it a shot?
Chapter Four – Wandering in the Wilderness
I heard the call of the canyon on a sizzling Sunday in May. Its terracotta walls had been carved by a wondrous shift—some inexplicable force had charged up to rumble as God was creating it all. A hawk squealed high overhead, and when he knew he had my eyes, he soared up high and away—off into the wild sky blue. Showoff, I thought, but I smiled anyway.
Chapter Five – Heaven on Earth, A Dream-Come-True Revue
This game of fear we play just keeps us out of sync
With the same old tears we pray to find the missing link
I say, whatever you do, do it fine
And wherever you are be a star
Shine, Shine, Shine, Shine, Shine
If you and me set our love free
The day will come when we will see
We’ve given birth to Heaven on Earth,
We have given birth to Heaven on,
Heaven on, Heaven on, Heaven on,
Heaven on, Heaven on, Heaven on Earth!
Chapter Six – Lessons Learned the Hard Way
Life ceased to be fluid. Each moment was excruciating—disconnected somehow from the one before. Everyday tasks became insurmountable. I (literally) did not know what to do next. I couldn’t see, hear, taste, touch or feel anything. Something was very wrong. And off at the edge of my hollow self, out where I had never gone before, a question began to assault my mind. How can I die?
Chapter Seven – City of Angels
The greatest confirmation I ever received came from a 75 year-old man in a bathrobe. On Christmas morning, Daddy was sitting in his favorite chair with his feet propped up, reading a book from cover to cover. Not just any book—It was MY book. I had written it! He was smiling and shaking his head, and when he finished he looked over at me and said with lit-up eyes, “Damn, you can write!”
Chapter Eight – The Black Hole
The world is especially green today—fresh from a week-long drizzle. The dreary clouds have lifted to reveal the full-blown Florida sun on its climb to the top of a magnificent azure sky. As sunlight floods the scene, I can feel the pulse returning to my veins. Gone is the crush of unspeakable terror, of the little or no hope that strangled me in the overcast gray of the week. In those interminable days, I tried, in vain, to comprehend why the noose had fallen so squarely around my neck—again!
Chapter Nine – Rivers in the Badlands
The abuse was still verbal, mental and emotional, never physical. But I’ve been told that words can deal harder blows than fists. If my experience is any indicator, I’d say that is true. He never raised a hand to me. In fact, he never even raised his voice. He didn’t have to. I had been so finely tuned by guilt and shame—my mind, will and emotions were all but gone.
Chapter Ten – Stumbling into Grace
On a cold and lonely night my thirty-two year run was about to come to an end. As I digging deeper than I had ever gone before, lightning did finally strike me. As its flash streaked across the sky, I was lifted out—and my way was illuminated. In the brilliant display, I saw another path. It was narrow, but I could see a light—a blindingly bright light flowing from it.
I couldn’t shake off that dream—its comfort, its peace, its feeling that wherever I was within that light was home.
Chapter Eleven – A New Creation
Now home has claimed her itinerant heart—like the glorious rainbow above. She celebrates the sweet rain as it falls from the magenta sky. Gratitude records a glow of vibrant color. This, above all, she knows—the road will rise once more to have its way. And then she will share the path and the climb—in awe of the infinite view. Safe in the palm of eternity’s hand, faith will cry out, “Jump.”
Chapter Twelve – Can You See God?
We hold hands and I pray. When it’s over Dot’s eyes meet mine for a sweet moment, and we are captivated by the pure spirit of God that is within us, between us and beyond us. Her spirit is not old like her body, and maybe even her mind. No, it is young, fresh, shining through her eyes into mine.
“Can you see God?” I whisper. “He’s right here.” She nods, and we hold onto the moment as the Holy Spirit washes over us.