Being a Friend

April 26, 2010

Dear Lillyann,

The thing I love most about you is the way you delight in everything. It’s the quality I love most in a friend and is exactly how God wants us to be with Him and one another. When you see me, you squeal with delight, and I do the same. Friends delight in one another even though they may not always be happy. Friends must also go through sad or difficult times, and the squeals of delight become a quiet looks of relief or tender tears of release that come when you know someone hears and understands your heart. That kind of friendship is the most valuable thing in this world. The Bible says it is like the fellowship in heaven, and I believe it.

One of my friends is 90 years old today. Pearl lights up when she sees me coming. I love that about her because it makes me feel so loved. She looks for me when she is at the church, and embraces me when she finds me. I have many wonderful friends who do just that. I am overwhelmed by the number of people who love me and sometimes want to back away or even run away. I try to love by myself rather than letting the Holy Spirit love through me. The Holy Spirit is the sweetest friend of all. Jesus sent Him to stay with me until I am in heaven. I can walk in God’s kingdom now with the Holy Spirit’s help. He is called the Comforter because His presence is like a warm embrace. He is always there when I need Him.  I will try to be there for you when you need me Lillyann, but I will not always be. I pray you will become good friends with the Holy Spirit and know that you are surrounded by love. We are beautifully connected to one another through God’s Spirit and become one with Him and one with each other through His love.

Working in the church office can be very stressful because I get a lot of love from the people of the church and the community as they pass through. Many times, the troubles they are having overwhelm me because I try to take it all in, process it, and make things better for them. Wanting to make things better is a big problem because only God is able to do that. It helps Him if I let the Holy Spirit work through me rather than trying to do things by myself. I am just learning that, and it is helping my relationships, especially the one I have with God. I cannot fix the problems of others; I can only be a loving presence who listens and speaks the truth with love. It’s not an easy thing to do, but the results are amazing.

We sometimes get love and lust mixed up. Lust is a word mostly associated with sex, but it has to do with much more. Lust is when you have to have something or someone. It is the opposite of love when you have deep feelings for someone, but you don’t want anything from them. It is easier to understand if you look at it from the standpoint of wanting. Lust is wanting selfishly. Loving is wanting the best for those you love. I have made the mistake of trying to make others happy by giving, but that leaves me empty. I do love giving you things, but I love being with you even more. It’s why you squeal when you see me, and I do the same. I hope that never changes.

Getting and giving complicate love if we are not careful. When we truly love, we listen carefully and deeply. Pastor John is teaching me about being a loving presence, and that is helping me connect to you in a special way.  We have become fast friends because love was there all along; we just had to connect to it. As I learn to listen, I am more open to the love that is all around me. Connections make this life like heaven when our relationships are pure and honest and filled with love. I am open to love in a way I never have been before, and you are a big part of that.

Be open sweet Lillyann and always love the way you do now, with abandon. Children love the way God desires. I’ve learned to pull away and stop connecting with my whole heart because my heart has been broken many times, but it gets a little stronger each time. I am glad to be loving again and not worrying about getting hurt.  I am just learning to be who God wants me to be and to love the way only I can; I hope you learn that more quickly than I did.  People are attracted to you if you aren’t worried about whether or not they love you back. Give and love openly and don’t worry about those who don’t understand the way you love. Look up to God, open your arms to Christ’s forgiveness and love; then snuggle next to the Holy Spirit. You’ll be amazed at how God’s love will change your life. God will place friends in your path who will help you see yourself as God sees you, friends who hear your heart and let you hear theirs. You are my sweet friend Lillyann, and I love you so very much.

In Christ’s Precious Love, Gigi:)

Walking in God’s Kingdom:)

May 6, 2010

Dear Lillyann,

There is nothing I can do to get to God on my own, but Christ offers a bridge from me to Him. It isn’t complicated. God is like the sun, which is so bright I cannot look at it directly or I will be blinded. God is too much for me to take in on my own, and I cannot be in His presence without first going through His Son Jesus Christ. Jesus is like the moon which reflects sunlight in a way that enables my eyes to see it. I love to stare at the moon; it is the most peaceful light in the world to me. Christ’s love is the most beautiful love in the world because He brings God’s love to me in a way I can understand. God loved us so much that He became one of us so we could love Him and share that love with others.

I want to be in God’s presence and love Him, but my heart just can’t take it. That is where Jesus comes in; He died on the cross so I could experience God’s love. When I love Jesus and understand and accept the forgiveness of the cross, I can embrace God’s love and receive His Holy Spirit. God is like the sun; Jesus is like the moon, and the Holy Spirit helps me take it all in. The three are one and work together so I can be in God’s presence and feel His love even before I get to heaven. That is what walking in God’s kingdom is all about.  It begins as soon as we accept His love. Heaven is being in God’s presence and being able to love Him directly.  That will be more wonderful than I can begin to imagine or describe to you. When we truly love one another, we get a small taste of what heaven will be like. We can walk in His kingdom now and love in a new and beautiful way!

God’s love is unlike any other love because the more it is shared, the more it grows. Sharing God’s love is what a visiting minister was talking about at our revival tonight. I have to show others that sweet glow of God’s love in a way that will make them want what I have. We are called to help each other find, stay in, and grow in God’s love. It’s what this beautiful journey is all about.

The Holy Spirit showed me tonight that the cross is not the destination, but the turning point. The minister drew a diagram on the whiteboard to show that people are at different places when we meet them. I’ve always been afraid to witness to others because I thought I had to get them to the cross in one encounter. That’s as silly as thinking that I have to convince every man I meet to marry me or every woman to be my best friend with one encounter. No wonder I was so nervous when telling others the good news. In seeing what God is doing for me, the Holy Spirit will nudge them and me a little closer to Christ. I just have to let God work in my life and be a loving presence. I also have to let go of my plans and follow His.

Yesterday, as we came down Indian Creek, Mere said that our walks do not seem like exercise at all. I agree; they seem like sharing and loving and caring. Time goes by so quickly, and we are closer to each other and God as we share the path. Exercise is just a wonderful side effect. Witnessing is like walking together and should not feel like exercising. Too many churches and people are exercising and not enjoying the walk together. If Mere and I focused upon getting to the bridge and complained the whole time, the walk would be torture. It would take forever, and we would feel terrible when we finished. Too often, that’s the way we worship and witness when it comes to God. You’ve got to get to the cross; you’ve got to get to the cross! Then what? Well, I’m not sure, but you’ve got to get to the cross! That leaves us and those to whom we witness frustrated, and God’s kingdom doesn’t come on earth as it is in heaven as He desires.

God puts wonderful people in my path to help me find my way. The visiting minister and Pastor John are helping me in a way I can’t put into words except to say that they make the journey so much better by walking alongside me this week, just the way Mere does when we walk together. If I walked eighteen miles all by myself each week, I would get the same amount of exercise, but it would not be a journey; it would be a treadmill. A journey takes you somewhere you have never been and involves sharing the path. If Mere and I complained and fussed about the bugs or the heat or the pace of others in the path, no one would want to walk along with us. In fact, we would discourage those who were thinking of walking. Churches can be like that when they make the journey to God sound like a walk on the treadmill. That breaks God’s heart and mine. If we stop at the cross, we leave people feeling worse than they did before.

The cross is the most important marker on my journey because it is the starting point. If I get lost, I can always go back to the cross. The cross points upward to where Christ is now. As I share the Lord’s Supper, I am reminded of the cross and God’s love. It takes me back to the beginning of my journey and reminds me of the journey Christ took so I could be with God. The journey is about finding holiness, sanctification, and becoming one with God. That’s where churches create a traffic jam because they want to make rules about who can be sanctified and how to be holy. Those are big words that simply mean getting closer to God and doing my best to be like Jesus. The word holy simply means ripe, ready, and mature. I can’t get there by myself, but if I let the Holy Spirit connect me to God’s love, I will bear the fruit of His Spirit and ripen beautifully. I will experience a transformation that is like those butterflies you and I love so very much. I especially want you to remember that everyone can take the journey to the cross and get closer to God. I only have to let the Holy Spirit be my guide. Never let others tell you that you cannot go into God’s presence. It is only those who stop at the cross who want you to stop too. Christ’s resurrection paves the way to God’s presence. Christ is always at God’s side interceding for me.  When I love, obey, and trust God, I get to walk in His kingdom. 

We are all different, so our journeys are also different. Never feel inferior if you are not like someone you admire or look up to. Pastor John and the visiting pastor are good friends and love God dearly, but they express their love for Him in very different ways. Our differences make a beautiful composite image of Christ. People are attracted to those who love God with abandon. Everyone is searching for love, and that is what sharing the good news of Christ’s love is all about. Each of us have our own special relationship with Christ. God is love, and His Holy Spirit will make our expression of His love unique and beautiful. Christ’s love is indeed precious and perfect, and I know you will grow to love Him and others in a way that helps you see yourself and others as He sees you. That’s what walking in God’s kingdom is all about, and it makes for an amazing journey.

In Christ’s Precious Love, Gigi:)

Finding Your Voice

April 24, 2010

Dear Lillyann,

Finding your voice is a very important part of the journey, and learning to sing this year has been a beautiful part of finding mine. I have always believed I couldn’t sing but wanted to very badly. My music teacher in elementary school told me I was not a violin but a clarinet. He said it with sarcasm and embarrassed me in front of the class. I stayed away from the high notes and sang softy so no one could hear me.  His cruel remark changed the way I saw and heard myself. Words are powerful and can do great damage or much good depending upon how they are used. Pastor John spoke healing words when he told me one Sunday evening that I had a beautiful voice. We were working with the youth, and I found myself singing along with abandon. At first, I thought he was kidding. I’m used to folks making jokes that I don’t understand, but I could tell he was serious. Besides, he’s not the type to joke about something like that, and he was a music teacher before he was a pastor. It was the first time anyone ever told me I could sing, so I began to think that I just might be a singer. John showed me some breathing exercises and gave me a few lessons during Holy Week in 2009. It was a beautiful turning point; I practiced and grew to love singing. Oswald Chambers says it best, “The world does not bid you sing. God does.” (from “The Love of God”) I love that beautiful truth! God does bid me to sing and loves it when I make a joyful noise in praise to Him or hum happily to myself. Singing is a beautiful way to express joy and praise. God loves nothing better than to see me full of joy and hear my voice reflect that joy.  

I sang “What Wondrous Love Is This” from the bottom of my heart in front of a group of people during Holy Week this year, and it filled me with sweet joy and peace. Singing, like walking, requires leading with my heart and letting go. I did just that on Friday, April 2, and found that when I wasn’t thinking about singing, I sang beautifully. That’s true in all I do. I know you will love to sing, and I hope you will play an instrument. Papa Jose and Grandma Susie both play beautifully. I pray music will become a big part of your life and bless you as it has blessed me.

You took three steps to me and five to your mama at my house yesterday, and you walked even more after you got home. You walked, I started this book, and we had our first time alone yesterday. Walking, like finding my voice, is all about letting go, stepping out, and leading with my heart.

I had another lesson in finding my voice last Thursday.  I had lunch with a friend who is a minister. Her beautiful green eyes looked straight at me after she said the blessing, and I could hear God as she asked why I thought I could not be a prophet and hear God’s messages myself. She and I both knew the answer to that question. I am a woman. It was so embarrassing for me to realize I was thinking such a thought. One thing I would love to see change is for women and men to be seen as equals in God’s ministry.  Folks from many denominations think a woman should not be the lead pastor in the church, and I believe that limits God.

I grew up thinking that women were to do only certain things.  My father explained that he would pay for my college education if I would agree to be a teacher, nurse, secretary, or housewife.  He believed that it was worth the cost of tuition to find a husband who could support me.  I smile as I think of that now, but it wasn’t very funny back in 1970.  I really wanted to be a key punch operator. That was someone who worked with computers which were just coming on the scene.  My father pitched a terrible fit and told me he would not pay for something as useless as that!! I gave in and went with my second choice which was teaching. I was blessed and privileged to be able to spend thirty-three years teaching mostly middle school.  I thank God for giving me the opportunity to be around so many wonderful young people. 

It was June of 2008 when I realized for the first time  that the Southern Baptist Convention didn’t approve of women as lead pastors. I was shocked because I know Christ does not think like that at all. I talked with Pastor John about it, and he said that he did not agree and thought women should be ordained.  A young man told me at Vacation Bible School that very night that I would make a good minister.  Once again, I could hear God’s voice in his:) I prayed about this new knowledge and talked with my sisters about it. Edie said not to worry about it until it got in my way. She also said to help bring about change.  God bid me to do the same. Ghandi would advise me to be the change I wish to see in the world, but I would change that to the change God wishes to see in the world:) Finding my voice is the first step; speaking it and living it will prove to be much more difficult. Pastor John is a dear friend and teacher; we have been through a lot together. We tell each other the truth with love, and that is what makes our friendship so special. The best of friends tell each other the truth with love and hear the truth with love, as well.  

Mary Magdalene also helped me understand God’s lesson for me. The people in the Bible are real people who struggled just as we do. That’s what I love about the scriptures, and I hope you will love them too. Mary Magdalene was a troubled women; but when she came to know Jesus, things changed for her. God’s love and truth transform in a beautiful way. His love is for everyone, not just for some people or for good people. Like Paul,  I’m sure Mary had a hard time believing that love could be for her. I imagine she marveled at the way Jesus loved with a love unlike any she had ever experienced. Kingdom love is not like any other kind of love. It transforms and makes all other love pale in comparison.

When Mary lived, women had to stand in the farthest corner of the temple to hear God’s word. Women were considered inferior to men, but that is not the way Jesus treated women. Mary was a special disciple and is thought of as the apostle’s apostle by some. I’m sure she made the disciples nervous because women in ministry still make people nervous today. Fear causes us to miss hearing wonderful words of wisdom and living the life God wants for us. A friend told me about Mary’s gospel and said it contained beautiful wisdom. I didn’t realize Mary had written a gospel, and that upset me. Her gospel is filled with wisdom, but it isn’t in the Bible. Many important pages are missing, and I would love to see them. There are wonderful books of wisdom that aren’t in the Bible. The process for deciding what went into the cannon was a long one that I believe was a honest one. I’m not saying her gospel or the gospel of Thomas should be in the Bible, but I do believe they should be read and studied since they were close to Christ and have words of wisdom worth hearing. People often try to silence those who scare them, but God will not be silenced. It is important to speak the truth with love and not worry if others don’t understand or don’t respond as I desire. Not needing a response is important when it comes to speaking or being silent.  Finding stillness is the most important part of finding my voice:)

As I read Mary’s gospel for the first time, I was sad that I had never read it before. Mere and I talked about being raised to think that girls could not participate in the worship service. She told me about playing church with her little friends. She went to a Catholic school and knew the Latin masses by heart. She and her friends would make an altar and say the masses in Latin, but they were not allowed to be altar boys. Girls do serve now because change is inevitable.  God’s transformation comes with the changes He has in mind for us. Jesus knows men and women are different; God made us that way and loves our differences. He knows those differences are necessary to spread His gospel, and He loves it when we work together. The harmony formed by connecting and loving one another is sweet music to His ears.   

Finding my voice has been about much more than learning to sing, but singing was a wonderful turning point for me. It is about knowing God not only hears, but also forgives us. It is about hearing God and being willing to speak the truth with love.  Good friends speak the truth with love even when they disagree. God uses love and truth to bring people closer to one another and to Himself. Nothing is more powerful when it comes to walking in God’s kingdom than sharing the journey with those who hear and speak the truth with love. God helps me find my voice and hear the hearts of others if I remember that♥

In Christ’s Perfect Love, Gigi:]


Seeing The Light:)

Seeing the Light (April 24, 2010)

Dear Lillyann,

Gigi & Lillyann

I took this picture of you at your first birthday party at Meme’s house on April 18, 2010. I love it because it captures your curiosity and my delight in you. Since it was taken on your daddy’s birthday and a few days before I began writing to you, I wanted to include it with this first letter.  The week before this picture was taken, you, mommy, daddy, and I were having dinner at a little cafe in town called the Cork & Bean. It was late when we finally arrived, but you were wide awake and ready for an adventure. Tyler and Gina ate as you and I walked around looking at everything and talking to everyone in the cafe. You loved the beautiful overhead lights and wouldn’t stop pointing at them. I love it when you point and ask, “Dat?” I do my best to answer your questions and satisfy your curiosity, but sometimes that isn’t easy with the language barrier between us. I try to explain, but you don’t always understand. You get so frustrated when you try to communicate but we cannot understand what you are saying. I am that way with God much of the time; thankfully, He is very patient with me.

Each time you pointed up at the lights, I said, “Light.” Your interest soon moved on to other objects and people in the lively cafe. Folks were watching and enjoying your curiosity. Danny, Mellie, and Maggie were there, and Maggie just delighted in you. We visited each table and then moved to the window. As we looked at the lights of the passing cars, you suddenly pointed up at the lights and said, “Ight?”

I couldn’t believe my ears and squealed, “Yes!!!” You kissed me all over my face and beamed with delight as we shared a special moment. My heart melted and reformed as you kissed me sweet Lillyann. Love is delighting in and connecting to one another, and we did both in that precious moment. I had a similar experience when I first understood Christ’s love on Sunday, April 5, 1964. He is a very important part of my journey, so I want to tell you about the time I understood the light of His love for the first time.

I wasn’t planning to walk down the isle at First Baptist Church in Hickory, North Carolina, the Sunday after Easter in 1964, but I remember being overwhelmed by the Holy Spirit and making my way to the isle. I hadn’t told mom, dad, or Pastor Robinson I was ready to make a profession of faith or that I understood what the cross and the resurrection meant for me. I was eleven, in Mrs. Nell Hoke’s sixth grade class at Kenworth Elementary School, and just thinking about mama’s wonderful cooking waiting for me at home.

The Hymn of Invitation was “Love Lifted Me.” As I listened to the words, something happened that I cannot describe except to say that I was no longer in control of my actions. I pushed my way to the isle and hurried down to where Pastor Robinson was standing. I was ready to accept God’s love. I took classes to prepare for my baptism, and on Sunday, April 26, I was baptized into the body of Christ. I didn’t understand all Christ’s sweet love encompassed, but I saw the light of His love. Finding and sharing that light is what the journey is all about.

Seeing Christ’s light and living out His love are two entirely different things. My family were on again, off again Christians, and my childhood memories of church represent a variety of emotions.  Daddy liked the business connections, but mama felt out of place in the social crowd at First Baptist. I loved the music, the impressive pipe organ, and my Sunday School experience but remember little else. My connection to the church was not a strong one, but my connection to Christ was, and still is, very powerful and beautiful.

We are not prepared for special moments of understanding, and our lives are never the same after them. My family stopped attending church shortly after my baptism, and I stayed away from corporate worship until after your daddy was born. My attitude toward organized religion was not a good one, but my spirit longed for connection to a body of believers. God designed us for connection, and we find wholeness by being part of something bigger than ourselves. Christ is a body, and we are each a beautiful and important part of His body. Christ’s body is like one of those beautiful pictures made up of thousands of tiny pictures that you cannot see until you look very closely. The closer I get to Christ, the more I see and appreciate the importance of loving others. My connection to Christ enables me to connect to others as He desires. The Holy Spirit connects me to God and others as He creates the body of Christ. God places His hope within each of us when we accept the love of Christ.

I tried many churches before ending up at First Baptist Bryson City in 2005. I allowed my fear and my bad experience with church to keep me from corporate worship. Prejudice keeps me from enjoying the fullness of life God has for me. Let your inquisitive nature help you find your way and don’t judge anyone or any thing based on what others say; find out for yourself. My learning to walk right now is about connecting to others and loving the way God wants so I can be who He created me to be.

God uses unlikely people and places to spread His love. If I stay open, He will speak to me in everything and everyone. A man named Saul saw the light the hard way, which is the way I tend to learn. God used Saul and Ananais to build His kingdom and spread His love in a surprising way.

Saul was a Pharisee who loved religion. He thought he was helping God by opposing the new way of worship Christ was proclaiming. He hunted down and killed those who were listening to Jesus because he felt threatened by Him. Tradition is a wonderful thing, but holding it too tightly keeps me from growing and moving forward. Saul was not willing to change and was determined to have things his way. Ananias was a good man, but he had a hard time believing God would want him to help a man like Saul. He questioned God. I would say that was a silly thing for Ananias to do, but I do it all the time myself.

Saul was going to Damascus when he was blinded by a bright light. A voice came out of nowhere and said, “Why are you persecuting Me?” Saul was too scared to speak and fell to his knees. This strong man who led so many had to be led because he was blind and frightened. For three days, Saul was could not see and did not eat or drink anything. He was in total darkness. Life without God is darkness; no matter how hard I try to make it bright, it never can be without Him.

Ananais did not want to help Saul because he had hurt and killed many Christians. We have to trust God even when He asks us to do something that doesn’t make any sense at all. Ananais did as God asked and touched Saul’s eyes. The scales came off; Paul could see, and he understood. Of all the unlikely people God could have used to spread His gospel, Saul was the most unlikely. Like Saul, I find myself questioning why God could choose to use me to do His work because I don’t always see myself as God does. We look very different in God’s light; in order to see myself and others as God sees me, I have to turn toward Him and let the Holy Spirit help me. Only then, am I able to see who I truly am and see others as God sees them.

Light is a beautiful thing Lillyann, and I pray your life is filled with light and love. When you understand God’s light, you will see it is perfect love. God sees me as I truly am and loves me unconditionally. Saul thought he was unworthy of God’s love. I was that way myself for far too long, and I limited God because of it. No one is worthy of God’s love, which is what makes His grace so amazing. God doesn’t love me because I am worthy or because I deserve it. Saul accepted God forgiveness and His love, changed his name to Paul, and became one of Christ’s most beloved friends and disciples. Paul spread the word about God’s love, and Ananias helped him. I can make a big difference if I let go of what I think is best and let God have His way.

Like Ananais, I sometimes act as though God doesn’t know what He is doing. Children are better than adults when it comes to understanding God’s love; that’s why Christ bids me to have faith like a child. Trust and obedience help me get closer, but they involve letting go of what I want. That is never an easy thing for me to do, especially when I think I know best.

Seeing the light is knowing that God’s love is for me. When I know and embrace that sweet truth, I can’t wait to share it with others. Just as we shared a special moment when you saw the light and understood the connection, God delights and shares a special moment with me when I understand and accept His love. I can’t wait to share His love with you dear Lillyann. Love changes everything, and your love is changing me in a very beautiful way:]

In Christ’s Perfect Love, Gigi:] 

Letters to Lillyann: Introduction:)

Shortly after Lillyann’s first birthday in April, 2010, I decided to write letters to her so she could hear my heart.  Thought you would like to hear the introduction to those letters before I shared the first one. The journey is better when shared honestly with love, and it is with love that I now share. Thank you for sharing the journey:)

April 23, 2010

Dear Lillyann,

I decided to write letters to you on April 16, 2010 when Mere and I were on one of our long walks up Deep Creek. We were talking, as we always do when we walk together, and she said I should write for you. The idea to put that writing in the form of letters came today. You and I are both learning to walk. You are literally beginning to take your first steps alone, and I am beginning a new and exciting journey with the Holy Spirit. God is giving me messages, and I want to share with you. This is a turning point for me, and having you here makes all the difference. You encourage me to step out in faith and be who God wants me to be. The most important message underlies all the others; lead with your heart. When I lead with my head, I end up falling on my face. When I lead with my feet, I end up falling on my behind. I am just learning to lead with my heart so I can keep my balance and find God’s way.  It took a long time for me to find the courage to turn around, look to God, and let my heart lead. Any day now, you will find the courage to begin walking with confidence and find your balance, as well. Trust me, Lillyann, life is never the same after you realize that loving God is all that matters in this life. I am learning that surrendering to the Holy Spirit means using God’s compass to find my way out of the darkness and allowing His light to fill my heart. The path is frightening, and I am often alone without a compass. The Holy Spirit gives me direction, and the company of beautiful friends and family to give me courage. That makes life a wonderful journey. I invite you to come along on Gigi’s Journey. With the Spirit as our guide, we are sure to have an amazing adventure.

There just aren’t words to describe the love I have for you Lillyann or for God, but I know the Holy Spirit will help me tell you the truth with love as we walk together. Mere would agree that it’s the company that makes this journey a joy, and we both love your company!

In Christ’s Perfect Love, Gigi:]

Lessons in Love

The first and most important lesson when it comes to love is honesty. If I am to share this journey honestly, I must start at the beginning.  Nothing is more healing than the truth told with love, so I tell my story truthfully in the hopes that it will help you heal as you hear it and find the courage to tell your own story. I am thankful for everything in my path because it brought me to a beautiful place of peace. I have no hard feelings about anything that has occurred along the way.  My prayer is that sharing will bring comfort to you as it has brought comfort and great healing to me.

This was written on March 27, 2012, the 48th anniversary of the beginning of my relationship with Christ.  I grew apart from God for a time, but my relationship with Christ is stronger and sweeter than ever before.  Now, let me tell you how this journey began…

Lessons in Love: Gigi’s Journey

My journey began on October 4, 1952 in the middle of an argument my parents were having about going to a party. Daddy wanted to go, but mama did not. She wasn’t feeling well after moving furniture all afternoon, and she wanted to stay home. She told daddy she thought she was having labor pains. I wasn’t due for another six weeks, so daddy wasn’t buying her excuse. The argument got heated, and mama’s water broke. Daddy was convinced, took mama to the hospital, and I was on my way in to this world. They got to the hospital in time, but the dry birth was difficult for mama and for me. Although I was very early, I still weighed five pounds and was healthy by all accounts. I had no hair, eyebrows, or lashes, so I resembled a little alien and would fit in one of daddy’s hands. Alien is a word that describes me well as I’ve often felt I was not like everyone else. First of all, I was not a boy. Daddy was disappointed, but mama loved me like an abandoned puppy. The argument coupled with the disappointing news that I was another girl set the stage for my young life. It soon became clear that I didn’t process information the way others did. My mama told me often that I wasn’t like everyone else, and that was going to hurt me. Daddy definitely thought something was wrong with me and was constantly trying to straighten me out.

When I came home from the hospital, I was unable to suck successfully, so mama cut the nipple of my bottle to allow the formula to flow freely into my mouth. Mother was a feeder and believed food to be the cure for everything. She made feeding me a priority. If I was awake, I was eating! I was pitiful, and mama was determined to fatten me up whatever it took. The process was a tedious one, but she persevered. She kept me near her all the time and put a mirror in front of my face so she could make sure I was breathing. Daddy kept his distance. Not only was I a girl, but a scrawny one who had mama’s complete attention. I realize now how much my arrival and early weeks determined my course. Mother and daddy grew even further apart than they had been before my premature arrival. A bad situation got worse as mama smothered and daddy smoldered. His disdain and mama’s love grew in equal proportion as I struggled to survive in this crazy new world. The warm water was replaced with the dryness of a desert. Water has been a defining force in my life, so it’s appropriate for them to figure so profoundly in my arrival.

I not only survived, I thrived and surprised everyone except my pediatrician who told mama I would be her strongest child. I was a chunky toddler who loved my mama more than anything and feared my daddy. I scurried to mama’s side when he came into the room. My earliest childhood memory is of daddy beating me for wetting my pants. I didn’t make it to the bathroom in time, and made a puddle on the black and white kitchen floor. The image of the checked linoleum floor is a very vivid one. Daddy jerked me up by one arm and beat me. I know there were earlier beatings because my oldest sister told me so. They continued until the summer before I turned six. That shocked me, but it explained my recurring nightmare about the pier and the lake. For some reason known only by him, daddy singled me out and made me the object of his wrath. He called me stupid instead of Kathy, and I bore the brunt of his jokes, especially when I lived up to his name for me.

Life changed, and my journey almost ended on the pier at our cabin on Lake Hickory during the summer of 1958. I had nightmares about being under water, and mama explained that I had fallen off the pier when I was little. She went on to say that daddy ruined a suit and pair of good shoes going in after me. She said he cussed and screamed when he got me out. According to her, it was because of the shoes and the suit. Mama’s explanation made perfect sense, so I accepted it and moved on. The dream continued to recur until the truth surfaced during the summer of 2011. My oldest sister helped me piece together the events and find healing. That summer, the dream came back in a powerful way. It would not go away and was so vivid it took my breath away. I prayed and asked God to show me what He wanted me to see and heal my hurt as He desired. Now, in the dream, there was a man on the pier behind me. His loving presence comforted me, and I realized it was Jesus. I grew more frustrated each time the dream recurred and continued to pray about it.

Finally, I called my two older sisters to see if they could fill in the blanks and help me find closure. Linda had no memory of the event because she was too young at the time to have seen much, but Ann recalled the day with great clarity. I asked her to please tell me the truth because it was part of my heart’s healing. I also told her that I had no hard feelings for anyone, and my need to know was not about placing blame. She tearfully told me the whole story after I asked her if it was possible that I made the conscious decision to step into the water. Part of my concern about the recurrence of the dream was the feeling that I wanted the pain to stop, and the water represented a way to escape. It seemed as though I had stepped in on purpose. I saw myself alone on the pier. The feeling of loneliness was overwhelming, and my need to escape pain was very real. Ann told me that there were people and boats all around me because there was a big party that weekend. I was surprised to hear of the crowd and even more surprised when she described me as the saddest little girl she had even seen. Ann told me that the beatings had gotten worse and were unrelenting that summer. I carried the marks, and Ann carried anger and guilt. We were all at daddy’s mercy at the lake because of our isolation. The nearest store was a tiny place over a mile away. We had no car when daddy was at work, and Ann said the place was like a prison during the week. There were parties on the weekend with lots of alcohol and food, but the weekdays were long and lonely. Daddy was a different man when he drank, but the beatings were more intense during the week. She told me that I was in the midst of a large crowd of people when, just as in my dream, I looked down at the water and stepped in. I don’t remember struggling, but I do remember the feeling of comfort as the warm muddy water surrounded me in my dream. I have no memory of the incident except for brown muddy water.

Ann said that she and daddy were up by the cabin and saw me step in the water. Daddy took off like a shot, jumped straight in the water, and pulled me out. He did ruin his suit and shoes, but his screaming was not directed at me and had nothing to do with his clothes. He was livid that no one noticed a child going into the water. As Ann told me the details, I had a profound sense of relief. My dream finally made sense, and I understood that God wanted me to know the truth that had been hidden in my heart for so long. Even as she described the sad little girl, I could breathe for the first time since going into the water. So many questions were answered as the truth came to the surface. I connected to the little girl and felt her pain. As the truth about her surfaced, my heart began to heal. The truth is powerful and cruel at times, but it set me free as I listened and absorbed it. I had no anger when Ann told me, and I have no anger now. Daddy had his own demons, and this was about finding freedom from mine.

Daddy lost his job that summer and had to go back to school to train for a new job drafting plans for heating and air-conditioning systems. We moved to a new neighborhood and sold the place at the lake. Daddy stopped beating me, but he continued to call me stupid and belittle me when the opportunity presented itself. I believe he gave up on me after the incident at the lake. Perhaps he wasn’t ready to admit any wrong doing on his part. He often said to me that a child should only be spanked until the age of five because it was too late after that to do any good. I had the feeling he believed it was too late for me. Whatever motivated the beatings, it wasn’t my fault. It was something in his heart that never healed. That truth healed and freed my heart in a powerful way, and that encourages me to continue seeking the truth even when I know it will hurt. I needed to let go of the notion that I deserved daddy’s wrath. It is no wonder that I found myself in unhealthy relationships that left me getting what I believed I deserved or filling  my deep desire to be rescued.

As I draw nearer to the anniversary of my profession of faith 48 years ago, I realize that April is a month of great significance in my life. Easter is a big part of what makes it so important. Mama, Tyler, and Lillyann were all born in April. The journey changed, and my lessons in love took on new meaning on April 14, 2009, when Miss Lillyann Rose began her journey on the day before mama’s last birthday. Mama never saw her sweet little great granddaughter, but I know the two of them would have loved one another dearly. Mary Sue and Lillyann very much alike. Mama began dying as Lillyann began living in April 2009. Such is the nature of this world. Mama was losing clarity as far as her thinking was concerned, and because she saw her first pictures of Lillyann the day following her birth, she was convinced Lillyann was born on her birthday and named after her mama Lilly Bell Banning. We never told her otherwise because she was so delighted.

My heart was going through changes that I didn’t fully understand. Hindsight is much clearer than any other vision. As I reflect on April 2009, I realize my heart was changing in powerful ways. The pain of a broken marriage and the hurt of a fairy tale which ended painfully left me numb with a deadbolt on my heart. If you don’t love, then you won’t be hurt was my new mantra. God knew that wasn’t going to work. My heart had experienced a renewal during Holy Week, and I was feeling again. I sang alone in front of a group for the first time and found my voice; it had been hidden away for many decades waiting to burst forth. What a beautifully freeing feeling as I sang “What Wondrous Love” and “Where You There” in front of the group. My soul and spirit were soaring, and I wanted more of this amazing feeling. I found the courage to start down a path that would change my life and my heart forever. My heart was light and took off in a direction that would lead to the sweetest love and deepest pain I’ve ever known.

Love creates both joy and sorrow in our hearts. Both are necessary for healing and growth. Healing is not about being restored to my former condition, but rather about transforming and going in a new direction. Healing does not mean an end to pain. In fact, in many ways it opens doors that allow greater hurt than ever before. With love, the pain of separation goes to a new level. The greater the love, the more painful the separation becomes. That is the price of love, which is not for the faint of heart. The beautiful lesson in love is that separation causes God to suffer. As I experience the pain of being away from those I love, I get a very tiny taste of the loneliness Christ felt on the cross, the sadness God feels when I refuse to accept His gift of love, and the frustration caused when I ignore His Holy Spirit. That is a sobering lesson that brings me to my knees in humility.

It is again Holy Week, and during our Sunday service yesterday, we read the passion passages together. God’s presence touched me deeply as I heard of His walk to the cross and the love it represents. During the afternoon, I attended a party in honor of a fiftieth wedding anniversary. The lessons during the past few weeks have been about marriage and commitment. My marriage was a poor example of faith and love, so it was good to see what a marriage founded upon a love of God looked like after five decades. As I looked at the photo of a young couple, I realized they still had the same look on their faces fifty years later. That is a blessing I missed and will never experience. That kind of love comes from living and loving someone for fifty years. True love becomes a strong and beautiful tree that can weather the storms and take pleasure in the children from many generations swinging from its branches. The celebration of a long and happy marriage and the Spirit-filled singing and reflection of the evening service brought me to a beautiful place of understanding love more clearly.

I am beginning to understand that following Christ is not a walk in the park, but rather a love-filled journey which brings joy and peace as I learn that His love brings hope. Heartbreak and suffering also accompany love because separation from those we love is painful. Giving up what I want and truly wanting what is best for those I love is the sacrificial love God desires for me to comprehend so I can become the disciple and be an ambassador of His love in His world. I am feeling more challenged than ever in my life; it is impossible for me to love as He loves without His help. There have been many times in the past three years when I have begged Him to let me run away and hide from the hurt, and I know there will be many more. Last night, however, I did not ask for escape from the pain but for understanding. He made it clear as I cried that I am right where He wants me to be. I understand now that this pain is not about punishment or penance, and it is not about martyrdom either. It is about true discipleship and learning. Funny how that knowledge helped me sleep like a baby and wake with a feeling of peace. I know I will stumble as I am no where near as strong as Peter or as zealous as Paul or as faithful as Mary. Falling and failing are part of following, and they all stumbled along the way. That brings me comfort as does the fact that He made me just the way I am and has a special work that only I can do. My fervent prayer is that I will look to Him, His Son, His Spirit, and His Holy Word to find His way and let go of mine. He is truly of God of hope, and love and peace and joy:)

On the 48th anniversary of my acceptance of Christ’s love and forgiveness, God showed me the changes that He was making. The process will not be complete until I am in God’s presence. As I practiced “Take My Life,” I thought of my prayers for consecration and sanctification. It is my heart’s desire to be holy, and my prayers are that I will become ripe, ready, and mature. I realize that like the disciples long ago, I do not understand what that means, but I have a much better idea than I did when I first began those prayers. The beauty of God is that He takes my supplications and works them slowly into my heart. I do not know what God has in store for me, but I do know that He is at work in a big way. That blesses me because it means I’ve gotten out of His way so He can. So many amazing blessings this week, and I know that Good Friday will be even better. Easter will be the beautiful icing on the cake:)

Now, here are my letters to Lillyann, messages to Mylah and excerpts from my journal. I share the journey in Christ’s precious love.

His love and my love always, Gigi:)

That is God’s promise and mine.

Hello world!

My name is Kathy Holden Proctor, but my grand daughters call me Gigi. I am retired from teaching middle school English/language arts, and I will be sixty in October. My journey has been one filled with many ups and downs, but I’ve always landed on my feet-with God’s help.  I decided two years ago to journal my journey and share it with my grand daughters.  I want to share it with you, as well. Company makes the journey a joy, so I hope you will travel with me as I discover all God has in store for the next forty years:)

%d bloggers like this: