Happy 23rd Birthday Katelyn!

Katelyn Marie Leavitt Perkins,
Today would have been your 23rd birthday. We still celebrate you. We still honor the beauty that you were….are. We still cry some days as we miss you but we quite often smile at funny memories.
Just this week I was laughing to myself about the time you were demonstrating to Dad and I how you would swim if you had no legs. You had just completed a bout of chemo and had no hair. We affectionately called you Q-ball because your head was so white. You were in a swimming pool demonstrating how you would swim with no legs but you were sinking. Your name suddenly became the “Sinking Q-ball”. We were doubled over with laughter. We have so many memories like that, filled with laughter.
We have begun to settle into life without you here but still imagine how you would react to certain things, such as the birth of your new nephew, Bryan. You would have gobbled him up! He has so many chubby little rolls and is well on his way to being the same size as his daddy. Your other nieces and nephew have grown so much. Paige and Arryanna had a particularly hard time with accepting that you won’t be around to hang out with them any longer. Josh did too but he was young enough to move on a bit easier.
Some things happened this week that made me think of the day you had your first surgery. You had only been out of surgery a few hours, enough time for the major anesthesia to start wearing off. You were in a lot of pain. A nurse came in and started turning you over. I thought she was kind of rough but kept silent, trying to be a good mom and allow you to find your own bold voice. As soon as she left you looked at me and started crying and said, “Mom, she hurt me so much. She was SO rough”. I said, “I thought she was pretty rough but I was waiting for you to say something.” I got up and made a b-line to the nurses station and made it clear that that nurse was to never touch you again. I quietly came back and sat by you while you were sleeping. You woke up later and said, “Mom, thank you for making the bad nurse go away.” You were 18 but it was as if you were 3 again and asking me to hold you during a thunder storm.

Thunderstorms use to terrify you. When you were around 12 or 13 years old we had one of the largest storms I had ever experienced. You were trembling because you were so afraid. We could feel the house rattling and creaking from the wind and the lightening. I retold the story of how I use to be terribly afraid of thunder storms but how I had learned to love them. They are beautiful.
I asked your permission to take you outside into the thunderstorm. You cowered at the thought and clung to me. I told you that I would wrap you in a blanket and you could sit on my lap in your dad’s truck. You agreed. You clung to me with every clap of thunder and would bury your face in my chest and under your blanket. I reminded you that I would hold you tight but encouraged you to look up and see the beautiful show before us. We were sitting in the middle of incredible flashes of lightening and loud crashes of thunder happening all around us. The light show was spectacular and massive. The lightening looked like a neon net in every direction. We tried to count seconds before we heard the thunder but we couldn’t count fast enough because we were literally in the middle of the storm.
As we sat together I encouraged you to lift your head and watch the splendor. You slowly loosened your clenched fists and started to relax, your head started peaking out from under the blanket. You started looking for the beauty in the storm instead of cowering from it’s affects. Before I knew it you were beside me in the truck seat instead of on me. Rain was pelting the roof of the truck so hard that it was hard to hear each other speak. I told you to close your eyes and listen to the beauty of it’s sound. It was incredible. That was the last time I recall you ever being afraid in a thunder storm. You learned to appreciate its beauty.

Your death has been like a tremendous storm to our family. We have run to The Father for comfort. He provides comfort like no other but you know this. You were very familiar with His comfort. There have been times that we have cowered under the blankets and clenched our fists in fear and some of the family those fists were clenched in anger but not for long. The storm has felt spectacular and massive. We have begun to look for the beauty in the storm instead of cowering from it’s affects.
Our heads are peaking out from under the blankets and viewing the beauty in the storm. All three of your brothers and your sister and sister-in-loves have amazed me with their strength. Vulnerability and humility are beautiful gifts that they share openly. I love that about them. Grandparents are healing and overcoming. Your sweet husband has remarried, just as you had hoped he would. I believe he is very happy. That makes my heart happy too.
We have learned that joy does not always displace grief but often parallels it. It’s like a beautiful melody that wouldn’t be as rich without the low and the high octaves being played at the same time. These are things learned in a storm. We have the freedom to cry because we miss you and because we are grateful for where you are while we are remembering how incredible you are. It is not unusual to feel all of these things in unison. That is when the comforting, faith-filled melodies resound and sway us back and forth in the arms of The Father. He lulls us with His peace.
No matter how large and loud the storm is the comfort of the Father always rings louder and larger. No matter the condition of our heart He is ready to receive us as we are and pour grace over us so we may walk away with much more than we invested in our own healing. We can come to Him as a vagabond, whipped and empty and walk away as a King. His mercy amazes me and makes me desire even more of Him. His generosity brings me to my knees in adoration of Him. He always exceeds my expectations and I had BIG expectations!
His word is true. Romans 5:3-4 3 We can rejoice, too, when we run into problems and trials, for we know that they help us develop endurance. 4 And endurance develops strength of character, and character strengthens our confident hope of salvation.

A new hope has risen up in us. We are still wobbly kneed at times but walking in new fruit that wasn’t there before. More than ever we rely on His mercies and grace. More than ever we are learning to receive from Him instead of relying on those strong Leavitt tendencies that were simply not strong enough to endure this storm. The roots of our faith have grown deeper and wider simply by His grace. I know of no other god than is so merciful and generous. I know of no other god willing to take the sting out of death and replace it with such victories.
You would have loved sitting and listening to this story. Now, I imagine your sweet, contemplative and patient smile that use to melt my heart. It still does.
We love you and miss you. We celebrate you today! Happy 23rd birthday, Katelyn Marie Leavitt Perkins!

Snapshots of Wisdom – Through the Eyes of a 10 Year Old

I dedicate this writing to the most amazing women in my life, my mother. She has always been a woman of incredible courage but it grew greatly, in my eyes, when she gave me permission to publish this writing so others may experience healing through it.  Thank you Mom.  I love you so much.

I had three people in my life with the labels of Dad. Though, I have never actually called anyone Dad in my life. My first memories were of being inappropriately and painfully touched by my biological “Father”. I was probably a toddler or preschool age at that time. I will call him “Father #1” since he was the first one on the scene at my conception. I had no relationship with him.

I will refer to my legal father as “Father #2” since his last name was borrowed to put on my birth certificate. He fought to have my mother labeled unfit and had my three older siblings taken away from her. My mother was far from unfit! The same woman was allowed to keep my younger brother and me. I was 22 months and my brother 3 months when this occurred. This man’s vengeance caused my siblings much pain. They not only lived it for six years in that orphanage but for many years to follow. The stories they told when they came home were unbearable. I am certain many more stories were left untold. I grieve for the innocence lost in those six years, all in the name of vengeance of their father. I had no relationship or interactions with this man other than the one time that I mention later in this writing.

When I was in elementary school my step-dad came into my life. I will refer to him as such. He is the man that helped raise me for the larger portion of my upbringing. He was an alcoholic. When he drank he would get vicious with words and physical aggression, not as much in the earlier years but it built with great momentum in the later ones.  If I heard tensions rising in the house, or I could smell beer, I would unlatch the windows in my bedroom for a quick escape. I would make sure that I was between him and a door if we had any interaction. When voices started to rise it was not long before his fists started swinging or heavy objects started flying across the room.  I often hid in a place where I could see both he and my mom or at least be where I could hear what was going on.  I lingered, just out of sight, with weapons disguised as a hair dryer, a heavy decanter, a broom, pots and pans or anything with some weight that I could chuck at him to draw his attention toward me instead of her. The greatest lesson I have ever learned is that even when things appeared urgent, with a need to react quickly, there is always time to linger and listen for the voice of The One Who Adores Me. Reacting in fear is not wisdom!

James 1:5 If any of you lacks wisdom let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him.

He was a diver when he was young and dove off of a cliff without first checking the water below. He landed on a submerged fence post that penetrated his thigh. He had a limp and was not able to run, especially when he was drunk. This always encouraged my young, super hero fits of courage but there was so much more to it than that. There was always a supernatural aspect of the encounters I had in the midst of turmoil. A still small voice directed my path.

Father #2 came back into our lives and lived walking distance from our house for just a few short months, if that. My mother gave into my repeated requests to walk to his house with my older sister, even though she was not happy about the idea. She knew of none of the antics of that day until more than 20 years had passed. It was my older brother’s 18th birthday and his gift from his dad was a prostitute for the afternoon. Their abode was a bay window with only curtains keeping my eyes from witnessing their act.  At the young age of 9 I could sense the evil present in that house. I felt it right under my sternum and like a vice pressing my head. My physical innocence was stolen that day as I sat in a puddle of my own life fluids, screaming and wondering what happened. Father #2 gained more revenge. God has a way of protecting our innocence when those on this earth don’t. My memory and understanding of this offense was tucked away for another 12 years, until I was 21 then it crushed me like a tidal wave. Father #2’s threats made no sense to me that day, “If you tell anyone anything I will use this noose”. I didn’t know what a noose was. He explained. He hammered a 16 penny nail into the header above his dining room door way. He said he would hook that rope on that nail and put his head in the noose and hang himself if we told anyone. I had no idea what we weren’t supposed to tell! My innocence and The One Who Adores Me Immediately protected my memory and understanding of what he did to me. I was completely unaware. I vaguely remember thinking back on an old John Wayne movie that showed a lynching. My next thought was that the nail wouldn’t support his weight. Maybe I said it out loud, I don’t remember but that would explain why he went to plan B. Next, he said he was going to go lay in the 8-10 foot snow bank outside until he froze to death. Then he proceeded to put his coat on and take us outside to watch. My thought was that if he were serious about killing himself he would not have put his coat on.   Another snapshot occurred right here! The Greatest Lesson I have ever learned is to ask for clarity and truth within your circumstance! The One Who Adored Me guided my thoughts and filled me with wisdom beyond my 9 years of life that day.

The unfolding of Your words gives light; It gives understanding to the simple. Psalms 119:130

I don’t know where my little brother and I had been but we came home and heard vicious words being hurled at my mom. My step-dad had beaten her until she was unconscious. Just to type those words and read them is quite sobering. He continued to kick her. I watched her limp body rise and fall with each blow to her torso, chest and head. Somehow I knew that his full intent was to kill her. Maybe I knew that from long forgotten words that he spoke or the look of hate in his eyes or the gentle whisper from within. I was in 6th grade and a skinny little thing but the seconds that it took to run toward him felt like minutes before my 90ish pound frame collided with his to interrupt the rhythm of his hatred. I knocked him off balance and got his attention off of her and on me. I turned and ran with the breath of a demon on my collar, knowing that I was barely beyond his grasp the whole time I was running. I am unsure because I never looked back. My heart felt like it was bursting in my chest with every beat. I could feel my brain getting blurry and my body wanting to shut down and faint when I was only feet from him but I somehow stayed upright and kept running.

I later grabbed a dictionary and looked up some of the names he called me. I wondered for years why he would call me a female dog in heat or names that resembled a prostitute. I knew the word prostitute, because it was used to describe one of my step- sisters and my brother’s birthday present. This makes me smile to think of how God protects the innocence of children. It was so silly to me. The truth was that not one of the names I was called actually lined up with who I was. I remember feeling pain from the hate that he spewed at me but more importantly, those names were not valid and they rolled off of me. They were not truth! The greatest lesson I have ever learned is that others are not in control of my identity! I can receive lies or I can receive truth. It was my choice! I knew that the still small voice, The One Who Adores Me, would never agree with the words of the accuser! He only speaks truth!

 

One time I heard them arguing upstairs. I was very anxious and not thinking clearly. I started piling “weapons” on my bed.   I had a basement bedroom. I hid in my closet, until I realized that there was no way out. Horrible scenes actually played out in my head of what would happen if I stayed in that closet. I had to get out of hiding! He started screaming that he was going to come downstairs and rape me then kill me when he was finished with me. He came down and stood in my doorway, blocking me in my bedroom. I was terrified! I was screaming at him, begging him to not make me throw something at him and hurt him because I loved him. I told him that if he stepped one foot in my bedroom that I would throw the massive tape recorder that I had in my right hand and the heavy vermouth decanter I had in my left. He started to take one more step toward me with such hate in his eyes that I was paralyzed. What happened next will forever be etched in my memory. My mother flew down those stairs and tackled him from the back. She sat on him and told me to get out of there but to do so I had to step over him. I told her “NO” because he could grab me. Then she looked at me with those “Don’t mess with Mamma” eyes and demanded, with fire in her words, that I do it NOW! All of the sudden my fear shifted to the follow through of my sober mother instead of the drunk man underneath her! I jumped over them both and ran for miles without stopping. The greatest lesson I have ever learned was not to hide in a fight! Stand Up! Put one foot on the rock of humility and love and the other on the rock of truth! Hiding will keep you the victim instead of the victor! Listen to the voice on your side, The One Who Adores You, and obey quickly. We have authority over our thresholds!

Psalm 20:7-8 Some trust in chariots and some in horses, but we trust in the name of the Lord our God. They are brought to their knees and fall, but we rise up and stand firm.

Psalms 25:9 He leads the humble in what is right, and teaches the humble his way.

The last time I ever remember an abusive situation was just a couple of years before I was married at the ripe age of seventeen years and two days old. That would have made me around 14 or 15 years old. He was drunk again. He was in the kitchen and took a swing at my older sister, or tried to. I think he did connect but my sister was so tough and very strong. She managed to push him away. My mom was in the mix trying to protect her but they both got away.   I was in the dining room, just out of the way but close enough to jump in and help if I needed to. After they pushed him away and got free I followed them but not before seeing something that I will never forget. There was something cooking on the stove and the element was glowing red. When my sister pushed him his right forearm landed directly on that red hot stove burner. It branded him like an angry bull. My ears can still hear the searing of his flesh and see the increased rage in his eyes as they connected with mine. I ran like hell was chasing me! I knew that whatever got in the way of that raging bull would probably not live through it. I will never forget the 3-4 second window that felt like 30 seconds. The greatest lesson I have ever learned is in a fight never forget to have compassion for the one who appears to be your enemy. I am talking about people! There is a real enemy that we must engage but it’s not usually a person in front of you unless you are at war. I don’t have the testimony for that! When his arm landed on that burner my heart broke for his pain. I was less than eight feet away from this raving lunatic but I didn’t want him hurt. My heart actually physically hurt when I saw him hurt. He had to have had third degree burns. We were right in the middle of a possibly life threatening moment and I felt compassion for this man. The Holy Spirit slowed time so I may have a snapshot of that moment. This man was not my enemy, though there was a war going on the heavenlies, this man was not my enemy per say. The greatest lesson I have ever learned was the importance of being compassionate. Broken people are usually just as much a victim as it feels that I am. The next step, which is more important than the first, NEVER wear the shoes of a victim! They stink! They make you walk funny! They will never fit right. They will cause sore spots and additional wounds that don’t go away until you take them off! They will never match the personal style that was meant for you (Your purpose). I only know these things from too much personal experience.

After we got away, my family looked like a scatter gram running down the road, each of us frequently looking back at Mom because she was closest to the maniac in pursuit. He had grabbed some flower pots off of the porch and was throwing them toward my mom, shattering them all over the road. People were out on their porches and in their yards watching, kids that rode the bus with me and their parents. Curtains were pulled aside to see what the commotion was. Jeers from others were thrown alongside those flower pots. The greatest lesson I have ever learned is that humiliation is fleeting. The neighbors may have been watching a family run from a lunatic throwing flower pots but I was running a victory lap with more than just mere escape that day. I was carrying the trophies of a warrior; the lessons learned when the enemy was in pursuit. The jeers and judgments of man have no place among my victories. They were chaff in the wind that made my victory flag fly with more fervor. There will not be a place set for them at my table.

 

One of the later years, as his drunkenness increased and his depression surpassed it. He took some pills and drove to a field in the dark with the intention of dying that night. My mom was frantic. She woke us up to help find him. We found him. I can’t remember if we went to a hospital or home but I remember sitting next to my mom with bitterness consuming me. The prayer, “God, let him die” barely had time to be complete in my mind and my mom grabbed my face and looked me sternly in the eye and said, “Cindy, don’t wish him dead. You will regret it later”! Her eyes were filled with wisdom and compassion toward me. It was clear to me that the small voice that so often spoke to me just spoke to her and to me through her. My mother was right, though it did take years to push through the bitterness, hatred and gripping fear that riddled me. After I was married my husband had to tackle me to wake me up because I would beat him in my sleep, thinking I was defending myself against my step-dad in the nightmare I was having. My newlywed husband had to be careful to not touch me while I slept or I would wake up in full defense. Flashbacks sent me hiding in strange places ( once I got stuck under a water bed- try to explain that to your new husband when he comes looking for you) or going for a drive across town and calling my husband to make sure it was safe to be at home. Seeing a fight at a hockey game put me on the verge of vomiting, seeing any type of aggression would cause me to seek a safe place. I could not watch a movie where a man would hit a woman. I watched a movie once where it was implied that a man raped a child and I took off out our front door, running down the street screaming. My husband chased me, caught me and held me until I calmed but not without a fight. I am grateful that God gave me the gift of a large husband with a very gentle heart! These things have been healed in many layers over the years. I trust the Lord each day with who I am today and pray that it will glorify Him. He is my Healer! Every day I am reminded that I need Him. He is my Strong Tower and Deliverer. He is my best friend. He is my Helper and Comforter. I praise His name simply because He is worthy!

The greatest lesson I have ever learned is that forgiveness is not to be weighed and released by the performance of the offender. It is a choice. In all of the years of abuse I don’t think one person in my family every heard the words, “I am sorry” from my step-dad. I know that I didn’t. Forgive with the heart of a child, expecting greater things on the horizon. Forgiveness is simply an act of faith and trust in a loving Father, placing our hope in Him. It was a daily process for me to release hate and bitterness and most of all shame. When I realized that shame was the greatest thief of intimacy with my Heavenly Father, I was all over my past with a magnifying glass, asking The One Who Adores Me for revelation and exposure of the years of lies. I no longer tolerate it living in my basement.

The process of forgiveness is to practice looking at people like The Father sees them. He loves them deeply. My step-dad had much greatness within him. Here are some of his great qualities.

  1. He had a name.  It was Scotty. I have always loved that name.  I address him as Scotty when he was sober and as my step-dad when he was not. The name Scotty fit him, when he was sober.  He was jovial, funny and charming. I realize that this loving view toward him is messed up in the eyes of this world.  But redemption” gifts” new lens to the redeemed.  Redemption gives consent to view through the grace I have received.   As we grow in understanding and gratitude of the grace we have received we are able to grow in forgiveness.  I am overwhelmed with the grace given me. That makes forgiveness easy most days.  I associate the name Scotty with a loving man with the following attributes.

  2. He had a leather wallet with John 3:16 inscribed on it. He explained to me that God sent His son to die in exchange for all of my sin. He helped me memorize it.  It greatly impacted me that a God could so love me that he would send His one and only Son to die for me.  Scotty helped plant The Word of God in me that did not return void.  The very seed that he planted in me came back to honor and bless him, even though he did not deserve it in the eyes of man.  The irony of this cannot be dismissed. 

  3. He looked just like Dean Martin (drank like him too! Sorry, I couldn’t resist that one)

  4. His voice actually sounded just like Dean Martin’s voice.  I woke up to him sitting at the kitchen table singing almost every morning, with the smell of his cigarette and coffee in the air.

  5. During summer break he would frequently sing, ” Summertime”  kind of loudly, as if to say, “get up and enjoy this beautiful day that you have off”.  He would romantically serenade my mom, much to her chagrin.  “Hey, Good Lookin’” was one of his favorites, when he was being silly.  When he really wanted to touch her heart he would sing “Spanish Eyes”.  She would cry, therefore I would cry but I never understood why besides the fact that his voice was impeccably beautiful and it moved me deeply.  I loved seeing how deeply he loved my mother.

  6. Some mornings he woke us up with his whistling instead of singing.  Sometimes I would lie in bed longer just so I wouldn’t interrupt him.  It was beautiful and comforting to me.

  7. When I got out of bed each morning and came out of my room, his first words were always, “Good morning Beautiful” or “Good morning Sunshine”, usually the later.

  8. He loved to fish and imparted the joy upon me.  We tackled many cat fish together.

  9. His pockets always bulged with cigarette change that made him jingle when he walked.  Occasionally,  on a summer day, as we stood with a group of our neighborhood friends, he would turn his pockets inside out and throw all of his change into the air and yell, “It’s raining money”.  He would throw his head back and laugh at the scurry of children in competition for the biggest fist full of change.  Permission was always granted to head to the candy store a few blocks away.

  10. He bought an old boat that needed restored.  It was a project that he and I dreamed out loud about as we scraped and sanded on that thing for hours of our life, not seeming to ever get anywhere on it.  We tackled important issues, such as laughing at the stupidity of our vain attempts toward such a mammoth project.

  11. He loved to lay in his hammock on a clear night and watch the stars.  I would lay by this loving man (when he was sober) and dream with him.  I only knew him as a broke and broken man but he told stories of times in his life when he earned a very  good living and if he had it again how he would use it.  He explained The Great Depression to me and how he would have purchased real estate.  His stories, whether real or made up I will never know, influenced me to invest in real estate, a true love of mine to this day.

  12. He was a dreamer and gave me permission to dream.  I did not dismiss this when his faults outweighed his virtue. Though, it did take me years to trust my dreams again when they “felt” shattered for a season.

  13. He was an artist.  He painted amazing landscapes in oil.  This greatly influenced the artist in me.

  14. He was a carpenter and painter.  I was a tomboy and when he was working in the garage I would often snoop around.  He taught me how to paint a house like a pro and not to be afraid of power tools.  This came in very handy when I married a man that didn’t know how to use a drill or table saw!  I am grateful that my sweetheart acquired those skills and now I don’t use power tools!

  15. He was a water bug.  He regularly took us to a beautiful beach called “The Cliffs”.  He impressed us greatly when he would dive from heroic heights and challenge us to do the same.  I am a water bug because of his love for the water.

  16. He served our country in the Navy.

  17. He loved to camp.

  18. He had an old Cutlass Supreme that he tinkered with and always dreamed about restoring but never got around to.  He would talk about painting it Candy Apple Red.  He stirred a curiosity in me, birthing a desire to paint my own car.  My children purchased a little convertible for me as a Mother’s Day gift.  I sanded it, did my own body work and painted it Candy Apple Red.  It completed something in me.  It was a healthy thing.  It was as if I took a baton from him and completed something that he was not capable of doing. He was too broken.  I was not!  That is what screamed from deep within my spirit.

  19. He died almost 20 years ago. I had not seen him for years prior to his death.  I grieved deeply.

  20. The One Who Adores Me adored Scotty!

 

I would not trade one day of the life that I have lived or I would not know the voice of The One Who Adores Me like I do today.   I would not trade lives with one that has lived a dream for I would be trading treasures of the Kingdom for sawdust in the hand of a pauper.

The One Who Adores Me reminds me that every circumstance calls for new intimacy. Every new dealing begs for new encounter. He is the author of revelation and wisdom. He is my Companion and dearest friend in this walk of wholeness and victory. Without Him I am simply a broken and empty woman. This is most certainly the greatest lesson that I have ever learned!