Sunday, April 10, 2011

The Vintage Pearl Giveaway

The Vintage Pearl is an incredible jewelry company that fashions all sorts of creations out of freshwater pearls and stainless steel. Check them out!

As you know, my name means "pearl" and I've been on quite the journey to discover just how meaningful that is. Read my blog post, Pearls of a Great Price, to learn more. My dear friend, Bethany Suhr, sent me a beautiful necklace from The Vintage Pearl just before I went on Moody Radio and inscribed it with words from Pearls of a Great Price.

"I really hoped you would love it," she gchatted me. "And you could wear it when you speak and it would give you a sense of... peace. And worth. And let you know there are people that back you and love you."

I cried right there at my desk at work.

And so, I must tell you all that The Vintage Pearl is having a contest and are giving away their jewelry if you tell them which piece you want (blogging and tweeting earn you extra entries!).

So, here's my attempt to snatch up another piece of their gorgeous collection and to encourage you to do it too!

Friday, March 11, 2011

The Moody Radio Interview

Moody Interview

After 10 years of an extremely broken father/daughter relationship, dad and I were finally, fully reconciled in June of this past summer (Don't fret, there will be plenty of posts to come on how that miracle happened).

Two weeks later, I was diagnosed with a form of arthritis (Again, no need to worry, I'm going to be blogging a lot on that too). As I prayed and wrestled through what it would mean for me to now take on the very disease that debilitated my father and destroyed my family, I reached out to my friends and extended family to help get me through this new phase of a very prolonged, painful story. And as I shared with them about why I was so broken about being diagnosed, I also began revealing the truth behind my family's tragic story.

Then my pastor asked me to share my testimony at our church's new campus. I cried all of the way through it but so did a lot of folks listening.

Then I was asked to share at an all-church Christmas service.

Afterward, I was approached by a producer at 90.1 Moody Radio and asked to be a guest on This Is The Day, one of Moody's daytime programs. "This is happening way too fast," I said in shock to the friend standing next to me. "For years, God has told me that I would eventually tell my story, but this? Wow..."

Over the course of the next few weeks, my family struggled through what it would mean to actually publicly tell the story we've kept quiet for 28 years. Oh, but the conversations that ensued - and the continued healing that took place - it was all worth it. Even if the radio interview never came to fruition, the process of preparing for it revealed a kind of beauty and wonder none of us could have anticipated.

See, it was my mom and I who worried and fretted over who would hear the interview, what it would do to dad's reputation and the gossip that would spread. One week before the scheduled interview, I was minutes away from pulling the plug.

"Gretchen," dad began when I called him in tears. "Do you honestly think that this story will be a surprise to anyone from my past who hears it?"

"No, probably not."

"Neither do I. I think this will make sense to a lot of people who knew our family. Something was very obviously going on. Don't you think I've thought through who could possibly hear this interview? Do you think I would have told you to go ahead with it if I wasn't okay with it?"

(Sniffles and sighs)

"Gretchen," dad continued, "Your mother is worried about me, but I'M OKAY with it being told. It's a story that NEEDS to be told."

"But why, dad? Why are you okay with me telling it?" I choked out. "The last thing I want to do is hurt you. I don't want to put our family through any more pain."

"I'm okay, Gretchen, because I'm changing. I'm growing. I've realized my mistakes and there's been some healing. God has told you to tell this story and He's provided an opportunity. Go and tell it."

Then I really broke down. I can't remember the last time that my father comforted me. I can't recollect a time in 10 years when he calmed me down, when he supported me. Later, when I talked with my mom she told me that he had had the same affect on her.

"That's one of the main things that made me fall in love with your father. His ability to comfort people. I haven't seen that in him in a very long time."

Several days later, I got a call from my father.

"Gretchen, in one hour I need you to pray for me."

"Uh...okay. Why?"

"Because you and I have had a lot of time to process and heal. I've apologized to you for the ways that I've specifically hurt you. Your brother and I had time to talk when he was home for Christmas. But I haven't apologized to your mom - my wife - for all of the ways I've devastated her and let her down. I just finished writing a 3 page list of all of the things I need to apologize to her for. In one hour, she'll be home and I'm going to start with #1 and work my way through it."

I don't think I made even one comprehensible sound for the next minute.

We serve such a powerfully good God.

Several days later, I spoke on Moody Radio. Friends, family and Moody listeners around the world tuned in. Lives were touched and in the process, mine was changed.

Click here to listen to the interview.

And... I'm Back!

It's taken me way too long to get up and running again after I moved.

Waaaay too long.

So, this is me reassuring you that The Sankofa Journey is alive and well, and lots of posts are coming your way soon!

Thursday, February 3, 2011

More Posts Coming Soon!

In the span of a week and a half, I overcame a lifetime of keeping my story quiet and spoke on 90.1 WMBI Moody Radio (I'll post the link soon!), flew to Texas for a cousin’s wedding and engaged in some serious southern barbeque food, packed up my entire house, survived a blizzard that dumped 22 inches of snow, spent hours digging my car out of a 6 foot snow drift, and then moved... in those 22 darn inches. Phew! 

This girl is exhausted.

Therefore, my poor little blog has been neglected. 

Once I’m settled in my new place and Comcast has bestowed upon me the gift of internet, regular posting will be resumed.

In the meantime…

Oakley wants to be packed too
My life in boxes
My poor, poor car
The amazing Bobcat man who came to my rescue and dug me out
Ahhh - freedom!
My brother and I at our cousin's Texas wedding

That's some good Texas eatin'

Sunday, January 23, 2011

The Gardener

I’ve had some very, very dark years. 

Years were I have longed for healthy male relationships, for a strong father figure to lead, to show me the way, to take care of me and my brother and my mom.  And while God has denied this in some aspects so that I can learn to rely on Him, He has also strategically placed incredible men in my life to help jolt me and coach me towards healing.

During my senior year of college, an uncle of mine sat me down and asked me why I was holding on to my anger.  I told him that all of my life, people have congratulated me for being so strong and for handling things so well, but all I’d ever wanted someone to say is, “You’re hurting. Let me sit here next to you and hurt with you.” Inwardly I was crying out for someone to help me. I just wanted someone to see my pain, to see what I was going through, to see what was happening to my family.  

So, my uncle turned to me and asked, “Do you want them to see a bitter, scarred woman, or do you want them to see a woman who has walked through the fire and has come out more refined and more beautiful on the other side?” 

From that day on, my prayers changed from “God, help them to see how much I’m hurting,” to “Please, just take my anger away. I don’t want to live like this anymore.”

It was during that time that I began clinging to John 15 – The Vine and the Branches passage. God describes himself as a gardener who comes and cuts away the branches in us that are not bearing fruit, and prunes those that are bearing fruit so that they can be even more fruitful. 

I remember sitting at a computer in my Creative Writing class at college and our assignment was simply to write. I sat there with a blank screen in front of me, lost and feeling nothing. Suddenly I could see a reflection in my screen of a tree just outside the window behind me. It was winter, and so this tree’s branches were bare, but it was waving gently in the wind. All of its fruits were dried up and gone and yet it still held onto its beauty. And then a poem just began pouring out of me about how I was a tree whose fruit was dried up and gone, and I was a tree that was in its winter season. Dead. 

I didn’t feel like I had any fruit to offer the world because I was so broken inside.  

And yet, God in his goodness, still saw beauty and life in me. 

And so I started praying that God would be the gardener of my tree, and if I looked away, would He come gently and trim away the dead branches in me and prune the ones that still had life in them? 

That fall, while my dad was hospitalized for a severe overdose (Daddy Disclaimer), God came quietly and begin trimming away the anger, the bitterness, the ugliness in me.  It wasn’t until weeks later that I realized I could breathe a little easier and the debilitating anger was not as crippling anymore. 

I think God often does that – He heals when we’re not looking. And I think He does that so that we can’t claim the credit for ourselves. We can’t claim credit for the good work that our loving Father has done in us.

Traces of Beauty

This tree
Waves gently in the wind.
Branches are bare, save a few brown leaves.
But it still holds onto its beauty, this tree.
When all of its life is frozen in time,
When all of its fruits are dried and gone,
This tree holds itself up and waves in grace and beauty.

Oh God,
Sometimes my branches are bare.
Sometimes my fruit is dried up and gone.
And still You see a beauty in me -
A reflection of Your Love and Goodness and Grace.
Apart from You I can bear no fruit.
Apart from You I am a lifeless trunk,
Supporting dead and rotting branches.

And Lord,
Sometimes so many rotting branches cling to me.
They are a part of me and I cannot let them go.
But still You call me Beautiful.
When I am dry and cracked,
When the season of my life is dead for a time,
When my life is spent and I have nothing left to give,
Still even then You call me Beautiful.

Oh God,
I grant You permission to be the Gardener of my tree.
As I look off and away up at You,
Will You quietly come and trim away
The rot that has been killing me?

But God,
I have noticed that as soon as I look back
At the holes where those dead branches were,
they grow back.
How can You ever completely take away my ugliness
When I am so focused on it?
I won’t let You.

So God,
I am going to look away now.
When You are ready,
Come by and gently bleed me
Of the poison that is eating away at my being.

Someday God,
I will look back over the tree that is me and
I will see only the traces of Your beauty.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Daddy Disclaimer

When discussing my father throughout this blog, I use big hairy words like narcotics, addiction and overdose.

Because this isn’t a book where a reader can chronologically follow the story and be privy to all of the battles won and lost, the growth and the healing, I feel the need to provide this “Daddy Disclaimer.”

I’m not airing my dirty laundry here. I’m airing his.

To be sure, my father has made some serious misjudgments throughout his adult life, but he is still a living, breathing creation of God who deserves honor and dignity. After years of living in a drug-induced fog, he has emerged more clear-minded and more knowledgeable of how much he has to apologize for. The healing has begun. 

He has – incredibly – released me to tell my family’s painful story and has done it with a grace, humility and open-handedness that has blown me away.

And so the least that I can do is include this disclaimer when I discuss the harder times so that you will know that whatever the situation I’m recounting, I still love my father and he is still one of the sweetest, most tender men I know.

He’s on his own journey. So let’s extend him the same grace and forgiveness that we ourselves need every single day.

Peeling Off the Dragon Scales

God literally drew me to a desert soon after (See The Desert Place). Except it wasn’t a desert so much as a tropical island in the middle of the South Pacific.

I spent a year living in Fiji, on a deserted island with no electricity, no roads in or out. And it was a glorious year of refocusing and relearning how to walk with God.

One day I was told by a missionary living on that island to pick up a big rock and carry it with me all day. At the end of the day he asked me if I had had any profound thoughts. And I responded by saying, “You know, in the beginning of the day it was a real nuisance – and so heavy! But now… now I barely notice that it’s there. It’s like it has become a part of me.” 

“Ah,” he said, “and so it is with all of the unnecessary burdens that we carry with us through life.”

Stupid wise man.

And so he made me think through what I was unnecessarily carrying. And when I was ready, I was to place my rock at the foot of a cross he had set up 10 feet away as a symbol of laying down my life burden.

I knew immediately that the burden God was calling me to lay down was the identity that I had formed from being the traumatized daughter of a very sick man (Daddy Disclaimer). I remember visibly shaking as I approached that cross and heard God whisper to my heart, “That is not your identity, dear Gretchen. Lay it down and pick up your true identity in me.” I should have thrown that rock down with all of my might and leaped for joy but instead I hesitated and hesitated, trembling at what it might mean. 

I don’t know how to be anything else, God, I thought. What am I supposed to do with the big gaping hole that will be left when I set down this burden?

In C.S. Lewis’ Chronicles of Narnia series, there is a story told in the book, Voyage of the Dawn Treader about Eustace. Eustace accidentally turns into a dragon (I know, I know. Who DOES that?) and after many attempts to turn himself back into a boy, he encounters Aslan, a lion who resembles Jesus Christ. Aslan tells Eustice that he must tear the dragon scales off with his big lion claws. Eustace explains, “The very first tear he made was so deep that I thought it had gone right into my heart. And when he began pulling the skin off, it hurt worse than anything I’ve ever felt. The only thing that made me able to bear it was just the pleasure of feeling the stuff peel off… He peeled the beastly stuff right off… And there I was as smooth and soft as a peeled switch.”

In Fiji, terribly afraid and feeling like my skin was being peeled from my bones, I set down my identity as a victim, and took up my identity as whole, victorious, daughter of the King.