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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/.

___________________________________________________________________________________________Christmas Merry Christmas to All

Christmas time. When families get together, and love and joy and peace fill the air.

Uh huh.

I went back to Nebraska for the holidays with a strange sense of trepidation. It was my first Christmasafter signing up to follow Jesus, and I wasn’t sure what it would be like to be back in the old neighborhood.

Sure enough, I resumed my avoidant behavior of staying up late at night, reading, so as to sleep a lot during the day. But one night as I stared at the book in front of me, a thought arose to consciousness—that sense of God thing again.

You should tell your mom about your sexual abuse.

Oh, hell, no! She’d kill me for sure. I mean, she would be so angry at me. I couldn’t face that. What would be the point?

You should tell your mom about your sexual abuse.

Are You crazy? No, really, why would I do that? Dredge all that up with mom. And how would I bring up such a taboo topic? At the breakfast table?

“Oh, by the way, Mom, I was sexually abused in second grade. Would you pass the salt please?”

Right. Conversations about big topics like that were not done in my family. No way.

You should tell your mom about your sexual abuse.

Okay, how ’bout this? I’ll tell mom about my abuse, but you have to have her bring up the topic. I can’t just bring it up out of the blue.

Silence.

I rolled over and went to sleep, confident that I had dodged a bullet. I mean, mom bring up the topic of sexual abuse of children? Never happen. Never.

In the morning after eggs and bacon I set about making the traditional “peppernuts” for Christmas.They are a kind of spicy cookie/candy thing that involves rolling a big lump of dough into lots of little tiny balls and baking them. I had just reached the rolling into balls stage of the procedure when I heard the Phil Donahue Show come on in the living room. The day’s topic was child sexual abuse.

Holy shit! I ducked my head down and kept rolling peppernuts, hoping that mom wouldn’t come into the kitchen. But presently she came sailing in through the dining room, speaking in an intense, angry voice. “If anyone did that to any of my kids, I’d kill them!”

Okay, God. You win.

With a heavy sigh I accepted my fate, and opened my mouth.

“Well, mom, I have something to tell you…”

I told her. Not in detail, just the bare fact of it happening. She sank, shocked, into a dining room chair. I continued to vigorously roll peppernuts while facing her across the peninsula of counter space that separated dining from kitchen. But I didn’t stop telling my story. I wanted to emphasize that I had turned all this over to God now, and he was working healing in my life—that the mere fact of being a victim was not the whole story by a long shot.

Suddenly she interrupted my nervous narrative to ask, darkly, “Who was it? Who did it?”

Great, she wanted to go kill him, I suppose. “Mom, that’s not really important right now…”

“Was it Pam’s brother?”

“No, mom…and it doesn’t matter because…”

“Was it Jack?”

“Well, yes, it was—but that’s not the main thing here. The main thing is that now Jesus is working to make me whole again…”

I don’t think she was listening. Maybe she was going over in her mind past interactions, responses,comments. Maybe she was thinking about how to rid the world of the pestilence that had done unspeakable things to her daughter. I don’t know.

The end of that conversation evades my memory. I know that the peppernuts got baked. I know that was the last time I ever made them. But something else odd began to happen. My mom suddenly became very touchy-feely-huggy. She was never that way before. I mean, the usual homecoming hug, or goodby hug. But now she was coming up to me at random times and giving me hugs and putting her hand on my shoulders and all kinds of affectionate behavior.

Was she saying she was sorry? Was she trying to make up for something? I had just shaken up her world pretty hard, after all. In any case, I kind of freaked out, kind of felt like a rogue vacuum cleaner was wandering around the house just waiting to latch onto me. What was that about? Wouldn’t I want extra affection from my mom? I didn’t know. But I trumped up some excuse and left several days earlier than I had intended, returning with a sigh of relief to the solitude of my tiny room in Ash House, and watched the eight-night-long PBS stage production of Nicholas Nickleby.

story by bobbie jo morrell, all rights reserved

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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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