June 2010


Francine Phillips is a poet, author, and editor living in San Diego, California. Please check out her blog at http://francinephillips.tumblr.com.

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Chapter 1

For God So Loved the World that He Gave His Only Begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life.

John 3:16. Just saying the reference brings to mind a chorus of small children memorizing it in a sing-song tone, stumbling over the “whosoever” while the teacher waves her hand like a music conductor andmouths, “that means you!!!” And the room is getting hot and stuffy and my Dotted Swiss dress is starting to scratch the back of my knees and one of the boys is always too loud on the word “Begotten” and what does a six year-old know about perishing anyway. Life is already everlasting to a sixyear-old in Sunday School. Especially everlasting in a Dotted Swiss, too-tight dress.

Because God so loved me, Mike sailed into my life. I was coming up to 40, a single Mom for nearly eight years. My marriage to my seminary boyfriend had broken and died, mostly because, like many Christian virgins at 25 years of age, the only thing I had been taught about being a wife came from Proverbs 31.

Ridiculous.

I was blessed with two incredible kids, Molly and Jesse, who had to compete for my attention after a demanding day on the job. My father died and left me a little money, so we moved to a wonderful property with woods, a pool and a pond. I had a lot — great kids, an interesting job, a cool home, and incredible women friends. I held writers’ salons, parties, painting gatherings, readings, and planted a garden.

But I wanted a man.

Sleeping alone is one of the most painful parts of being a single woman. Just the act of turning down the covers, getting in alone, and turning out the light by yourself is something that those who are alone can’t understand as the loneliest moment of the day. Whether you take a book to bed with you, a strong blast of Scotch, or a bowl of Rocky Road ice cream, nothing is like sharing the warmth of the bed with a man. It just isn’t.

So I prayed for a husband. I told myself I needed a “helpmate,” which is Christian code for sex partner, even though you try to convince yourself that it’s really someone to cut wood for the fireplace, fix the car, help wash dishes, and sit in the driver’s seat. Bottom line, I wanted a man. And I wanted God to bring me one. Pleaded for one. Not that I had been alone that much. In fact, I had just been through a final break-up with my artist lover after four off and on years of whisking the kids away for their Dad’s weekend and scurrying downtown for two days of snuggling like puppies to the sounds of drunks shouting on the sidewalk, sirens in the night, Van Morrison soulfully providing back-up vocals. A million miles from cold, stuck Cheerios, homework papers, lunch boxes, and alarm clocks. That getaway to another world was fun while it lasted.

Now I wanted a man in my world.

It’s a mistake that many divorced women make who have financial security and a certain professional identity. Most are looking for a guy to come into the world they have made for themselves and simply help. My girlfriends and I were like that. We were the “’80s Ladies” that gritty K.T. Oslin sang about. We were women who owned our homes, and had obtained success, recognition and job satisfaction. We got together for poetry readings, gala events, lots of glasses of wine on the patio and laughter over dates from hell. Over the years we had refined our criteria for a mate. I shared our findings, once, with a male friend.

“We have narrowed it down to two requirements,” I said. “Solvent and capable of erection. Is that too much to ask?”

He thought for a moment. “Actually, it could be.”

We didn’t want to particularly change our worlds, just have help with the ones we had created. Husbands to explain things to the pool man, accompany us to the plays that we like, give us a kiss on New Year’s Eve, hold us at the end of the day. We thought marriage was 50/50 and we could probably talk the right guy out of wanting his 50 percent because we were smart, successful, brought home the bacon, and were good in bed.

God so loved me.

On the Receiving End, copyright 2009, by Francine Phillips

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bjm21

Bobbie Jo Morrell is a mountain woman, poet, writer, leather crafter, rustic furniture builder, cat owner, technical writer, website designer. She says, “Colorado’s Front Range, with the smell of pine trees in the cool air of morning, is my home.” Her blog address: http://soulscompass.blogspot.com/.

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Just Me and God and…the Navigators

That spring Christine graduated with honors with a degree in Agronomy (aka “dirt”) and went to Indiana to pursue a master’s degree in entymology (aka “bugs in corn”). We wrote letters and occasionally talked on the phone—mind you, this was before email, texting, and nationwide cell service was known outside of serious geek circles—but on a daily basis I was on my own with Jesus, the healing thing, and the Navigators.

Torn between the desire to return to my hermitlike ways and the desire to be active in the body of Christ, as St. Paul put it, I stretched myself and did what group things I could. I went on the canoe trip to Decorah and embarrassed myself hugely by rolling the canoe I was in charge of in the currents of an undercut bank. With great presence of mind I managed to catch the loose floating stuff: paddles, stray life jackets, etc. Unfortunately while my hands were thus engaged, the current swept my glasses off and carried them to the bottom of the Upper Iowa River. (When I told Chris about this she joked, “See, God wanted you to get rid of those glasses!” They were permanently tinted brown, and she didn’t like that I hid my eyes behind them.)

I spent the rest of the float in the bow of Barry’s canoe. He was a very tall and very kind young man who lived in the Richardson Court Dorms and I was grateful to be able to recover at least a little of my dignity in his quiet and gentle presence. That night at the campfire, not only did I not get teased to death for my dip, but everyone chipped in some change to contribute a total of fifty dollars to go toward a new pair of glasses.

I spent the summer working for corn breeder research projects—mostly walking up and down cornfields and, later in the summer, coming out yellow with pollen. In the fall when Nav activities resumed, I joined the Bible study led by one of the women from Christine’s old study, and went to the all-campus gatherings. There I got to talk to Trina, who had led Chris’ study group and was first to come see me the night I decided to follow this Jesus guy. And I got to know Becky, who was the women’s leader of the Navigator staff there on campus. She and Trina were both from Minnesota, and their greeting, “Hellooo, Bobbie Jooo” always made me smile.

The study was a great group of women, led by Sandra. We were going through the little red study books published by NavPress, with lots of fill-in-the-blanks in them. I wasn’t nearly as excited by this as I had been by the discussions Christine and I had had previously. I could always tell what answer they wanted to fill the blank with without reading the scripture passage, so I usually didn’t bother to do the study beforehand. Read the bible text, usually, but the questions were boring.

I enjoyed the meetings themselves, the discussions around the text; although we didn’t seem to get as lively or as interesting in our questions and explorations. They were fun people though, and two of them even went with me to a Halloween party thrown by some of my old drinking buddies. I’m not sure they had a good time, though.

At some gathering I was telling Sandra about how, as a freshman, I had had my left ear pierced, and didn’t pierce the right one to make a pair until about a year previous. Her response made me laugh, but also echoed in my mind a little oddly.

“You weren’t…weird…were you?”

I knew she meant “homosexual”. No, I wasn’t, but she put it so…strangely. I was both glad that I had pierced the other ear, and annoyed somehow.

What if I told her about my abusive past? Would that be weird, also?

I also wrestled with the book. Healing? Really? It talked about guilt, low self-esteem and the healing of it, depression, and above all, the Wounded Healer, Jesus. Yet I didn’t feel that I could get away, get anywhere with this. My only confidante was in Indiana, and no one else here in town knew my story. I didn’t trust people with it.

Finally, with long distance encouragement from Christine, I looked for more help. Who to talk to? I couldn’t imagine asking, “What kind of healing does Jesus offer for victims of childhood sexual abuse?” in the middle of a group meeting, or of the Bible study.

Becky. She was the leader of the women’s groups, Navigator staff. Kindness and compassion flowed from her like sweet perfume. We got together now and again, and finally I unburdened myself to her. I was so afraid, or so ashamed, that I slouched in my seat and told my story with my head practically lying on the table. But there it was: I was a victim of sexual abuse, and I needed help figuring out how Jesus’ healing could be possible in my life.

Becky listened with compassion and gently asked some questions. I think I was presenting her with a difficulty she wasn’t accustomed to dealing with, but she took it with grace and thought carefully about what should be done next.

“You know, the E-Free Church here has a christian counselor come up from Des Moines twice a week. I’ll get her phone number for you; the church helps out those who need financial assistance to pay for it, too.”

Raising my head from the table I expressed my incredible gratitude. Partly for the counselor information, but mostly for her kindness and acceptance of my broken self. Healing, indeed.

story by bobbie jo morrell, all rights reserved

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