Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Horse Thief, Shoplifter, and Taker of Another’s Beer

The summer I was 15 I babysat for a pair of sisters – my mother’s friends, Dorothy and Jeanie – while they were out of town for the day. That afternoon they left me in charge of two toddlers, a four-year-old and a 10-year-old. While the three younger children were napping and Bobby, the 10-year-old, played outside while I watched TV. About an hour into their nap Bobby got bored and came back into the house.

Behind the house where Dorothy lived was the pasture of a neighboring rancher. This rancher had several horses and a few cattle in this particular field. These horses were quite tame and used to being ridden bareback. Bobby started talking about riding those horses. I don’t remember exactly what happened, but I ended up over the fence and on the back of one of those horses. Well, the rancher who owned the meadow called my parents saying that one of their ‘boys’ was riding his horse, and without his permission. My mom and dad knew that my brothers were nowhere near that part of town. They also knew that I was at the Hutchinson’s babysitting, which was just the other side of his fence.

That night when I got home I was in big trouble! Mom grounded me, but before that punishment began she insisted that I go to both the rancher and to Dorothy and Jeanie to apologize for my lack of respect for my job and for stealing the rancher’s horse for a joy ride.

Not only did I lose my freedom for a time, but I lost all of my babysitting jobs for the better part of a year.

That September – when school started once more – my friends, Lisa, Lee and I began shoplifting some small items from the general store. It wasn’t much, just some make-up, cigarettes, and some snack food items. To us it was just a game, we would work hard to fill our pockets with all that we could in the few minutes we had while we waited for the bus. We thought it was great fun to walk out of the store with things that we wanted but couldn’t afford to buy. And she who stole the most items would be the day’s winner.

One of the things hardest to steal was cigarettes as they were kept behind the counter on the wall behind the cash register. But we were all smokers, so at least one of us had to sneak a pack or two of smokes into our pocket every day. At the time we thought that taking these things right out from under the store owner’s nose was challenging and great fun. We also thought we weren’t hurting anyone … until one of the other kids that rode the bus with us, snitched to the store owner.

About the time – at least the same morning – the store owner was told of our escapades, my sister was looking for a pen or something. She thought it might be in my purse, so she went through it while I was doing my chores. Jerri knew that I had a little makeup, but when she found my purse was full of it and a pack of cigarettes, too. She put everything back into my bag and took it to mom.

When I was through with my chores I was called into mom’s bedroom. There in a pile on her bed was my whole stash of stolen make-up and my smokes. Little did I know that while I was getting read the riot act at home, Dick Campbell – the owner of the general store – was relating our crimes to my Pops. Mr. Campbell had been told of our deceit by a boy we went to school with who had caught us putting [ackages of doughnuts into our pockets in the store one Friday morning before we all got on the school bus. After his revelation, Mr. Campbell never let us wait for the bus inside the store on cold winter mornings again.

If I thought that horse stealing carried a heavy punishment, this crime carried a much stiffer penalty, 10 times worse than the last.

When dad got home from work that day, he and mom discussed what should be done to punish me. The first thing that happened was that I was made to take all of my ill-gotten gains back to the store to face Mr. Campbell. He took it all, throwing away the cigarettes and placing the rest in a bag with my name on it under the counter. He did the same thing with Lisa and Lee’s things, too. Then he made us sign a promissory note; a contract that said that we would pay for what we had taken and that we could have it back when it was paid for. It was very hard to admit in public that I was a thief and that I agreed to pay for what I had taken. It was horrible.

As hard as that was, facing my father was even harder; when we got home, he and I went into the laundry room where he beat me with a broom handle and whatever else he could get his hands on for several minutes. I knew that I was in the wrong, so I took everything he dished out … well, that is until he punched me, knocking me out the back door. At that point, I was ‘seeing red.’ This is when I got up, went back into the laundry room and knocked my dad down the back steps. It was the first – and the last – time I ever hit him. And it was the last time he ever hit me, too. I used to laugh about it and say that was the day we each gained a new respect for the other … but I was wrong! While I gained much respect for him, I now know that I had lost all respect in his eyes for many, MANY years.

I am sorry, Dad! I know that I was in the wrong all the way around. I should not have stolen from anyone, it is a sin. But stealing from people we knew and who trusted us was so, SO wrong! And hitting you was wrong, too. Two wrongs NEVER make a right.

Though this was my earliest foray into thieving, it was not my last. When Brandi was four and living with my parents, Jeremy and I were living with family friends, Pat and Teri. I would steal from K-Mart and other local stores, giving the stuff to Teri in order to pay my “rent.”  My thought was, ‘It was all small stuff … they would never miss it. And I had to pay my way somehow.’ Again, it was all just a game to me; another thrill and yet another way to run away from reality. I used to brag about never getting caught as a thief. But I now know that this was as bad a sin as my stealing was.

Taker of Another’s Beer? … I don’t remember exactly when this incident happened, but I believe it was in the same timeline as the first of these two incidents.

By way of introduction, my brother Rick was the middle child of the boys in my family. He was quite quiet outwardly, but his devious mind was always working overtime. He had a way of getting people to do whatever he wanted; I think this “talent” was a mixture of genius and evil trickery. He also had a habit of putting events into motion and then standing back to watch them unfold. He was the instigator and trouble maker, but his efforts rarely put him on the receiving end of any punishment for what inevitably happened. Many of you have seen the “Pinky and the Brain” Cartoons, right? Well, Rick is very much the Brainy side of this pair.

One summer evening on a Saturday Rick had his friend Norman for a sleepover. As he and Norm were heading home from one adventure or another they spied a case of beer in the back of a pick-up parked just up the block from our house and across the street from the only bar in town. The owner of the truck was in the bar drinking with friends, so the beer was quite unguarded. Norm was to spend the night with Rick and go to church with us on Sunday, then return home with his parents after services.

During the summer mom allowed us to remain outside until about 9:00 pm. The sun would typically set between 8:00-8:30 pm, so at 9 it wasn’t very dark, yet. On this particular evening, after dinner dishes were cleaned up, the boys and I went out into the yard until it was time to get ready for bed.

I don’t know exactly what Rick and Norman had said, but they dared me to take the case of beer out of the pick-up so they could drink it. It must have been something like I was afraid or chicken, for I can’t see anything else making me try something so daring … and so stupid no matter what it was.

I took the case of beer, drank two cans, and gave Rick and Norm the rest. They must have consumed the remaining 10 cans of it between the two of them. For they both came in stumbling drunk just after dark. Later that evening, they were both throwing up rather violently out the upstairs window for all of their evil endeavors.

For years this tale was never told … but by now it has been recounted often. Why I – or anyone else – would feel that stealing alcohol for consumption by a pair of juveniles was a badge of courage to be worn boldly, I’ll never quite understand. But I have often felt that Rick thought that my thievery that night was a brave and daring exploit I committed just for him and Norm.

Regardless, I know now that my folly was not only mine, it was compounded by the fact that I was participating in their sin too. Without my repentance, I would be rewarded along with them in the end. But I have come to the end of myself and now work only at loving, serving and worshiping the Lord Jesus and not the thrill of my stupid exploits. There will be much more on my change of heart and life when we come to that chapter of my story. But for now, think on Jesus and His exploits and know that He alone is God!

Saturday, October 29, 2016

Home Life?

1 Peter 2:13-17, the Message Bible;
Make the Master proud of you by being good citizens. Respect the authorities, whatever their level; they are God’s emissaries for keeping order. It is God’s will that by doing good, you might cure the ignorance of the fools who think you’re a danger to society. Exercise your freedom by serving God, not by breaking the rules. Treat everyone you meet with dignity. Love your spiritual family. Revere God. Respect the government.

The picture shared here is a photo of a painting I did for my father for Christmas in 2007. It depicts the garage and woodshed of the home I grew up in. Pops has passed on to his reward, so this painting hangs in my home now.

Life at home was never easy. On good days there was a tenuous calm that exuded our house. On bad days mom was yelling at all of us, smacking us when she was within reach, shouting her usual refrain; “Wait till you father gets home, he’ll take care of you!” You see she tried to leave most of the discipline to him.

When I was growing up dad was not the “ideal” disciplinarian. He, like my mom, came from a broken home. Neither of them grew up learning how to parent. They had never seen any good examples of how to be parents in their own or in any of their relatives. So dad, like his father before him, would hit first and find out what happened after we had been beaten down – until he learned to overcome his anger issues.

My oldest brother took many beatings for me and the rest of our siblings … he didn’t like to see us getting knocked around, especially if it was for something we hadn’t done. But I took plenty of beatings, some deserved and some not.

I wasn’t a Christian; though I tried to live a godly life, just without God. Mom would make us attend church every time the church doors opened and I lived like I believed it. I could talk the talk and look like I was walking the walk. Thus I attended without complaint, was a faithful choir member and sang specials whenever asked, but it was all different ways to run away from reality.

When days were rough around the house I would run, sometimes quite literally, running to the local swimming hole to swim and fish with my oldest brother and his friends. Or I would hike up the hill behind our home to our hilltop hideout where I would play among the wildflowers, or build imaginary buildings, roads, etc. with pine cones, branches and pine needles. Sometimes my running would be running away to my fantasy world while hiding in my room, out in the local park or sitting under the trees, among the headstones in our town cemetery. Another way I ran was by participating in afterschool activities; sports – I played basketball and volleyball in 8th grade, continued playing volleyball throughout high school and I also ran track, Future Homemakers of America, 4-H, band, and choir. I also stayed many weekends with my girlfriends.

I felt an outcast in my own home, my own family. Oh, I know that I was loved by my family; at least in the small ways that they each understood love and family. But our parents were not from families that had a proper understanding of real family love. Both of their families’ were survivors of abuse and divorce.

In my father’s family, my uncles were men who ran from the anger of their father and the lack of a mother at home, to attend Seminary and become the Pastors of churches in different denominations: one was a Baptist, another was Presbyterian, but I don’t know what denomination the third was.  They learned to love from the pages of God’s word instead of the lives of their parents. In what little time I spent with them, I thought them stoic and their families quite withdrawn.

His sisters, my aunts, became wives and mothers. Their homes and families were quite different from the uncles … there, fun and laughter abounded. I enjoyed the times that we spent in their homes. I felt that they knew what being “family” was all about!

My mother’s family was quite different, though her parents divorced when she was 12, her father was gone a lot of the time before he left their family home. He was a driver for the family trucking business and they drove all over the eastern states – New York to Chicago, etc. Family rumors said that Papa had a girl in each of the cities that they made regular trips to. Years after he and Gram divorced he married a lady named Phyllis. She was very different from my Grandma Jady, but I loved her, too.

Grandma Jady was a Christian whom my Papa Dick thought too religious. This was one of the reasons that he didn’t want to stay with her. But he loved his children – Nancy and Jerry – as well as he knew how. Mom and Uncle Jerry lived with Grandma Jady most of the time, but there was the time that they lived with Papa and Grandma Phyl.
When Papa left Grandma Jady, she became sickly and, at times, suicidal. So my Great Grandma Clark, Papa’s mother, took care of her and her children. She was like a mother to my Gram, though she was her mother-in-law. With Great Gran’s help, Gram was once again able to care for herself and her children.

My mother’s family was full of incest, pedophilia, child sexual abuse and molestation. Every female child was molested by Great Grandfather James Clark and his son, my Papa Dick. Great Grandpa raped his daughter and granddaughter; Cora and Jeanne, and possibly my mother too, didn’t even know their own virginity as he took it from them at such a young age. But this type of activity didn’t stop with the patriarchs; it continued through every generation, to the point that we molested each other. We girls went so far as to have sex with each other in our preteen and early teen years and also with Rick and Dave at times. All of this I have repented of in great tears, years ago. Is it any wonder that we are a family full of runners?

Thursday, October 27, 2016

Death of a Child

I Corinthians 13:11-12:
When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. But when I became an adult, I set aside childish ways. For now we see in a mirror indirectly, but then we will see face to face. Now I know in part, but then I will know fully, just as I have been fully known.

We all know that our childhood should fade away into our adult existence as we gradually grow into maturity, but no childhood should end in the manner that mine did. So, I share with you here how my childhood abruptly came to an end.

 My childhood is a blur of memories, both happy and sad. But the most vivid of these recollections is locked in sadness, hidden deep within a small, dark closet … quite literally. When I was 10 or 11 years old, mom and dad were both working. On this warm summer day, my mom was without a sitter to watch over us while she worked. So she arranged for her cousin Dan and his girlfriend to stay with us until she got home. 

My brothers were out back playing in the yard. I don’t really remember where Dan’s girlfriend was – maybe she was out back with the boys, I don’t know. My sister and I were in the bedroom playing. Dan came into the bedroom and began touching us very inappropriately; much like Great-grandpa Clark used to do when we sat on his lap. He also made us touch him. When he tried to force us into doing oral sex on him I rebelled.  This is when Dan put me into the closet and left me there until just before mom arrived home from work.

My sister and I tried to tell mom and Aunt Cora, Dan’s mother, what had happened but the shock of it all cloaked our young minds. All that we were able to tell them was, “Uncle Dan touched us.”

Though I know that both of those women had been similarly abused as young girls, they refused to believe – or even to acknowledge – that this tragedy had happened to my sister and me. When they ignored our pleas, in my young heart and mind there began to live many new fears; fear of men, fear of darkness, fear of being attractive and being touched in this manner once again, and the fear of small, locked spaces … and so the running begins. And I began to live deep in the recesses of my mind, hidden in my thoughts … telling stories, living mental lies – fantasies of my own creation – a private world of plush palaces and secret rooms where only the safe could come and dwell with me … ever running away from the reality that was my life.

Monday, October 24, 2016


Hebrews 12:1-3, The Message Bible;

Do you see what this means—all these pioneers who blazed the way, all these veterans cheering us on? It means we’d better get on with it. Strip down, start running—and never quit! No extra spiritual fat, no parasitic sins. Keep your eyes on Jesus, who both began and finished this race we’re in. Study how he did it. Because he never lost sight of where he was headed—that exhilarating finish in and with God—he could put up with anything along the way: Cross, shame, whatever. And now he’s there, in the place of honor, right alongside God. When you find yourselves flagging in your faith, go over that story again, item by item, that long litany of hostility he plowed through. That will shoot adrenaline into your souls!

Hi, my name is Leigh. I am a runner. Born into and of a family of runners. Though I am not one who runs for exercise, nor for the sheer joy of running or the music of the soul found therein. No, I am one who runs away from life; from my fears and my problems … and never toward any goal, either positive or negative! I am always seeking, but never really finding true peace of heart, mind, spirit or soul. At least that is who I used to be.

 These are the stories of why I run …

I was born on the 21st day of April in 1959; my great grandmother Clark’s birthday. I was small and underweight with pink hair. The second daughter of a family that would grow to five have children that survived birth and lived to adulthood. And yet I had been rejected before I was even born.

My mother, also a runner, was a very immature woman of 20 at my birth. To this day, though she is growing, she still has a lot of growing up to do. When she learned that she was pregnant with me, she already had a small daughter under the age of a year old. Now she was about to have another one, and she was very afraid … afraid that my father would leave again when he found out. Afraid that he didn’t love her … never had loved her or their young daughter. Afraid of raising two small children all by herself, as her mother had done. And she was afraid of being all alone in the world – and un-loveable – for the rest of her life … So she contemplated putting an end to her life.

Many days the thoughts of ending her life invaded her mind. Often she allowed them to stay and entertained them for a while … until one day she actually stood upon a bridge, toying with the idea of jumping. In essence, running away from life altogether.

I don’t know what force – other than God, Himself – held her back from the edge of the bridge that day. Or why she never gave in to her fears and suicidal impulses in this sad and lonely time of her life. I can only give thanks to God that she didn’t and that I am here today.