This may be the most difficult writing of the whole experience. Bear with me and read to the end if you can.
In June, 1986, I was 13 and moved to Arkansas because my biological mom, Sheila, had been begging Aunt Mary & Uncle Jim for 2 years to allow me to at least come visit. Their church had prayed during this 2 years for my return. I had spent 5 years being, Jenny, (my first name is Geneva, Jenny was a nickname), our niece, you know her mom died. Somewhere along the way they explained to me that Sheila was actually my mom and Kay had adopted me. I thought I was either the youngest or the oldest child because Sheila had two sons that had died in a trailer fire.
When I moved to Arkansas at 13, I found out that Sheila had JJ at 16, then me at 18 and she couldn’t handle a 2 year old and a newborn as a single mom so she gave me to her sister for adoption (there’s a much longer story, but you’ll have to wait for the book). She had Chris a year later and when he was 3 months old both boys died in the fire. So had she not given me up, I wouldn’t be here. (there’s another chapter of the book).
In Ohio with Aunt Mary & Uncle Jim, I was the oldest of 3 girls. In Arkansas, I was the oldest but had 2 younger brothers. My step dad Darrel had always wanted a girl, or so he told me. I was like the prodigal child, I was wanted, I had been prayed for, I was a daughter, I had a place. Darrel wanted to adopt me so we decided to change my name to Jenny Angelica Moore – nickname JAM to my step dad and I would go by Angela in school.
I think even during that time God was planting the seed for my future career as a public speaker, Angela means messenger of good news.
For several months my life was idyllic. Darrel and I talked constantly, he taught me to drive, he debated politics and religion with me, he was learning the guitar so I would sing to help him keep the rhythm, it was amazing. I loved my Uncle Jim, but he was blue collar truck driver that wasn’t super affectionate and we certainly didn’t talk religion. I feel like Darrel was the first man I trusted. (there will be more in the book of others that had already violated my trust in physical ways).
Then we got evicted from our house and moved. Sheila began working nights. I don’t think Darrel knew what to do with this relationship we had and I think there is probably some hurt from somewhere deep that caused the rest of this story. Darrel took our relationship physical by hugging me way inappropriately and walking in on my when I was changing. This went on for about 9 months.
I don’t tell this to bring shame on anyone, I tell this story publicly for the first time in 27 years to bring healing.
I would say I was devastated and crushed, but I think I just was angry and numb. I told absolutely no one. When I was 24 and Sheila died, my very first thought was “Praise God I never had to tell her what happened.” I was honestly afraid she would literally try to kill him. That sounds warped to me even now, but it is true.
I distantly maintained a relationship with Darrel even after he and Sheila were divorced. His parents loved me in spite of the fact that my mother and their son divorced. I think that is when I learned unconditional love. They taught me that blood didn’t matter but relationship did.
Even in college I went to Darrel’s house with my best friend Robin because I wanted to see my brothers. However, when I had Sami, I had to cut all ties. I may have still never told anyone (Robin guessed it because she’s a social worker), even my husband but I was not subjecting my baby girl to any possibility of what had happened to me.
In my 20s, I was so angry with him after I had my nervous breakdown and began to heal. It took years for the flashbacks to stop. I was really pissed at my counselor because I assured him that I hadn’t lived with this much pain when I was in denial and hadn’t begun to heal. I called Darrel a few times and got these really lame apologies that said, I’m sorry that your childhood wasn’t as it should have been. I heard distantly that he was hard to live with for a week or so after I called so out of respect for his 2nd wife, Kathy who was always kind and sweet to me, and his two children, I stopped calling.
In my 30s, I finally really learned that forgiveness really is about freeing yourself. It’s not waiting for that person to ask for it and say they are sorry. That doesn’t actually make it better. Forgiveness is actually a decision that really, really does release you from prison in your head.
I think it was also during this time that I recognized that much of who I am today comes from seeds planted by Darrel during the 2 years I lived with him. My political leanings (not that I will publicize them I do own a marketing agency), my deep faith, my thoughts on entrepreneurship, probably even my adventurous spirit. He truly believed I could do anything I set my mind to. I believe he was also the one to plant the seed that I should go to college so I could improve my life. He also wouldn’t let me drive until I could change my own flat tire (a tradition I have maintained with my children.) I decided this would be the lasting legacy, not the abuse.
I still didn’t re-initiate a relationship, by then I had 2 daughters and he still hadn’t acknowledged wrongdoing. I think sometimes people think when you forgive you HAVE to have a relationship with the person you forgave. I do not think that is wise. The Bible tells us to guard our heart for it is the wellspring of life. Being in relationship with people that hurt you, is not guarding your heart. (that sounds like another chapter brewing).
A few years ago, Darrel’s dad died. When I found out how sick he was, I went to see him and was able to spend most of New Year’s Eve, 2012 with him. He loved me until the very end and I always loved him and Grandma.
A few days later, at the visitation, Darrel came up to me in the same funeral home where I had buried Kay and still was hard for me to be in and said words I thought I would never hear. He gave me the most heartfelt apology and asked for my forgiveness. I was astonished to be able to stand there in complete peace and say, “Darrel, I forgave you a long time ago. It’s now time to forgive yourself.” He replied, you know that is absolutely the hardest thing to do. I agreed with him that indeed it is.
Besides forgiving Darrel the hardest 2 people I had to forgive was myself and God. Myself for all the stupid choices I made including not starting the healing process sooner. God because I believe in His sovereignty and most of the time the plans he has for me are not my plans, oh let’s be honest, sometimes I think they suck. Yes I know having raised 3 children that as a child I can’t see the bigger picture. I’m just saying I had to work on forgiving God because I was angry at him.
Fast forward to the blog post I wrote to kick start this blog. Apparently, there were some that couldn’t believe Darrel had ever done anything to me. Not exactly sure why I would keep that mostly to myself for over 25 years (there are plenty that have heard my story but not many of them know Darrel) or what I had to gain from telling.
A few days ago, I sent a FaceBook message to Darrel asking him to please tell the truth. Apparently he had and there was some mis-communication, which he sent me a FaceBook message assuring me he would straighten out. Shame creates mis-communication and hurt feelings and pain. However, shame requires that there is secrecy, silence and judgment. I do not judge Darrel and I don’t want anyone else to. I am not going to perpetuate the shame by maintaining secrecy and silence.
Today, I was on a San Francisco bus when I got Darrel’s message telling me how proud he was of some of my writing. I cried for nearly 2 hours. It doesn’t matter that I’m a grown up with nearly grown children and I now get my self worth and value from Christ alone. Inside I am still a little girl that wasn’t told nearly often enough that the person she trusted to be her daddy was proud of her and was safe again.
Ephesians 3:20 says “Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us,” My friend Viki and I have made it a shorthand and just say, More than we can ask for or imagine.
Yeah, call me one with little faith if you want to, but I could have never imagined and I certainly didn’t bother to ask for.
Thanks for listening.