Sunday, November 8, 2009

Boundary Busters

I must confess. The concept of a boundary in a relationship was foreign to me until I was in my mid thirties. I grew up in a home where they did not exist, and so as I moved into adulthood, I began to have trouble in "boundariless" relationships. This was not only true with the opposite sex but with abusive females, and even children at times (As much as we don't want to believe it, children can be abusive since we are all born with a sinful nature). As a result, I became a doormat. It was no secret that it was easy to walk all over me and and so I seemed to either invite the people who were already in my life (family members, spouse, etc.) to do just that or attract new people who were gunning for an easy target. At times I wondered if I had a flashing light attached to my head that read "Abuse Me!"

But there comes a time in many of our lives where the risks of unhealthy behaviors outweigh the seeming benefits, and that tipping of the scale motivates us to change. For me it was the birth of my second child. I'd known for a long time that the situation I was in was unhealthy, but I didn't want to "rock the boat" as water logged with problems as it was. Besides, I was a Christian and God was going to heal my marriage. Right? I still wholeheartedly believe God could have done that. Problem was, both parties have to want to make positive changes in order for that to happen. At any rate, the risks of continuing on with things as they were became frightfully evident to me as I finally admitted I was in real trouble -we were capsizing and my children and I were going to be the ones to drown. The first step really is admitting there's a problem. I really needed a life raft.

It came to me in the form of the book "Boundaries in Marriage" (Cloud and Townsend). When I read the definition of a boundary, I realized I'd been lacking them all of my life! No wonder I found myself in the boat I was in! As I read, I began to take baby steps toward establishing boundaries in my relationships. I didn't have any control over the behavior of the abusive people around me, but I (and the Holy Spirit) did have control over what I would accept from them. Being berated, cursed at, and demeaned in order to keep the peace were no longer on my list. It was so empowering to take ownership for my own behavior without taking the blame for that of others.

The authors of "Boundaries" state that the ultimate goal is to establish boundaries in order to have healthier relationships, but they warn that some people will walk away from the relationship rather than change. Sadly, as I tried to make healthier choices, the toxic people in my life, didn't take too kindly to the positive changes in me. I attended Christian counseling during this chrysalis period in my life as well as a support group. When I expressed dismay about how some people were responding to my boundary setting (the most common response was anger), the leader of the group, a licensed therapist said, "Of course they're angry. They've worked really hard to train you to accept their abuse. How dare you get healthy?" Ultimately, those relationships, including my marriage came to an end, but I emerged from the long transformation process as a butterfly.

The best illustration of what happened in what I've come to view as a God-initiated clean-sweep of the boundary busters in my life came from another counselor who told me as he held up both hands, fingers curled, and fitted them together, "You've been bending to fit an unhealthy pattern." Next he straightened one hand and brought it away from the other one. "As you get healthier, and they're unwilling and/or unable to unbend and get healthier too, you don't fit together anymore."

For years, when I was "boundariless", I felt withered. The strong, confident, independent woman inside me was dying. Looking back at pictures from that time in my life, I see that I was literally bent. I walked with my shoulders hunched and resembled Quasimodo from the Hunchback of Not re Dame. Today, with godly boundaries in place, it feels so good to stand up straight and stretch toward the light of who God created me to be.

Still, there are times when I encounter boundary busters. Though I don't have to deal with other people projecting their negative stuff onto me on a daily basis, boundary busters abound in the community, schools, workplace and even the church. I'm astounded by some people's audacity and their inability to take responsibility for their own actions. Sometimes I feel like Ray Parker, Jr. when he sang, "When there's something wrong in your neighborhood, who you gonna call? Ghost Busters!" Sometimes I want to call 1-800-Boundary-Busters!

But as I've continued to work on myself, I've come to the realization that there is no such boundary busters task force. Satan is the master of this cunning craft as he demonstrated in the Garden of Eden. God set a boundary to protect Adam and Eve, yet Satan persuaded Eve to eat from the forbidden Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. We as a human race have struggled with boundaries ever since.

So how do we combat boundary busters?

I've referred a lot to the "Boundaries in Marriage" book which is only one in the "Boundaries" series that includes titles such as "Boundaries in Parenting", "Boundaries in Dating", etc., but ultimately our boundaries are set out in the Bible, God's ultimate Boundary Book. It addresses every relationship and how we are to conduct ourselves in a manner that is respectful of the other person and ourselves, and that is God-honoring.

I joked about wearing a flashing sign asking to be abused, but in all seriousness, studies have been conducted that prove in a room full of people, the abusers will be drawn to the ones who will accept abuse. But we can draw the line before we get into abusive relationships or let unhealthy patterns develop in our existing ones. We've been given an internal Boundary Buster Alert in the form of the Holy Spirit. It's been called a red flag, or a check in the spirit. For too long I ignored mine, mistakenly believing I was being a peacemaker when I let people abuse me.

Boundaries are necessary and positive and a lack of them results in negative outcomes. An example of this is children who have no boundaries enforced in their lives. How many times have you heard someone say that children want boundaries to make them feel safe? The world is a scary, uncertain place when no limits are set. For children and for us.

Maintaining healthy boundaries is something I have to work hard at every day. I struggle between wanting to speak the truth in love and wanting to speak it in something else! My spirit wants to give a godly response while my flesh wants to rise up and give a worldly one. Oh well, the attempt at balance keeps me near the cross and calling on Him.

I guess there is a Boundary Buster hot line after all.

~Truly, Tammi

Tell Me Truly

What about you? Have you ever had a time where you had to set a boundary in a relationship? Was it difficult? Why or why not? Please let me know. I will write back. Also, if you enjoy my blog, please consider becoming a follower. Blessings!

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Supergirl No More

I must confess. I've thought about superheroes a lot lately. Last weekend my preoccupation with them probably had something to do with the Batman wings that were lying on the kitchen floor until this weekend or fact that I shopped for costumes for my children last Friday night. My four-year-0ld son was insistent that he be Superman. Again. Or maybe it was the fact that for two days running my Superman came up with numerous ways to rescue Ariel, AKA his big sister, Liv. Then this weekend, with Halloween falling on a Saturday, I've been surrounded by superheroes of all sorts.

At any rate, I've had the lyrics to a song "Save Me" that I think is from a cartoon stuck in my head:

I'm a Supergirl and I'm here to save the world,
What I wanna know is who's gonna save me?
I'm a Supergirl and I'm here to save the world,
But I wanna know why I feel so alone.

At times I feel like this. As a forty-year-old single parent of a 2 really high maintenance kids, a center director by day (at the center my district manager has called the busiest she's seen in twenty years) and as a writer by night, when I slow down long enough at the end of my 18 hour days to think about it I ask myself "What have you just done? That was insane!"

Take my blog for instance. I started this post last Sunday night around 11PM in an futile attempt to meet my self imposed standard of posting every weekend. By midnight I succumbed to my exhaustion and promised myself that I'd finish the next day. Then I went to work and got caught up in a tsunami of issues that wiped me out. Now a week later, here I am rushing to meet my deadline for the same post.

Why do I push myself so hard to post? After all, isn't taking the best possible care of my children and doing the best I can at my job (two of my ministries) enough? Not for me. For me I feel compelled to write (my other ministry).
Today's Christian Woman once published an article entitled "Called, Capable and Exhausted". I can relate. I'm compelled, called, capable and yes, exhausted.
I'd like to give readers a glimpse into my Supergirl world, but since it's almost 11PM and I'm too tired to type what I did this weekend, I'll just leave the summary of activities I typed last weekend here:

I drove to Cincinnati to get the kids, took them to McDonald's, shopped for costumes and pumpkins, visited a friend's house, bought continental breakfast for Saturday morning center training, attended training, shopped for ballet shoes for my daughter, went on a hayride and to a pumpkin patch, went to dinner with friends so kids could socialize, (turned friends down for more socializing). Attended telechurch (I believe the Lord understands), changed kitty litter, did 3 loads of laundry including folding and putting away, ironed, gathered and took out trash, cleaned 3 bathrooms, responded to emails, organized bills, prepared meals, bathed children, read to, etc. Filled out school paperwork for H1N1 vaccination. Started blog at 11:45PM. Slapped nail polish on and typed while it dried. Stayed up all night with son's ear infection.
No wonder I'm tired!
Lest it sounds like I'm doing nothing but complaining - and by the end of the post it does get better - I did get to do something that was just for me: I watched Lost in Austen on You Tube until 2Am Sat. morning and 3Am Sun. morning because that was only time I could uninterrupted.
Pride and Prejudice is one of my favorite novels of all time, yet I had never heard of this British miniseries. Tucked under the covers watching it on my laptop, I became blissfully lost in another world and felt as though God had provided me with an unexpected stay cation.
Yes, even Supergirls needs down time. LOL!
While watching it dawned on me that just as Levi devises ways to rescue Liv, the Lord has done the same for us.
I only feel alone when I am trying to operate in my own strength instead of relying on His strength which is made perfect in my weakness.
In the film "Spiderman" Peter Parker decided he's had enough of the superhero life. I've come to the same point. I can't save myself but I know who is waiting and mighty to save me.

So I'm handing in my cape and crying out for help to the only one who is able to rescue me from the ridiculous expectations I place on myself.
Caring for my children and going to work are not optional. I have to do both. And I still want to write. I just don't want to try to do it any of it in my own strength, but His.
I'm so thankful He used a holiday I've never really been fond of to remind me that I have to be Supergirl no more.
~Truly, Tammi

P.S. With His help, I made my deadline with 5 whole minutes to spare! What a mighty God we serve!

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Tammi's Take on "The Secrets of Jonathan Sperry"

I must confess, I was shocked when my friend and I entered the theater last night and were the only ones there for this movie. I rarely watch TV and miss most previews, so I rely on print ads and word of mouth to learn about the rare movie I might want to catch. I'd never heard of this one, and if the empty theater was any indication, neither had most people.

As my eyes adjusted to the dim light, Greg said with his usual dry humor, "So, where do you want to sit?" I'd been surprised that he actually voiced a preference when I'd asked him if there was anything he'd like to see. He knows everything about my abusive past and bends over backwards to ensure that I feel the freedom to choose what I'd like to do, see, eat, etc. I'd grown so accustomed to my opinions not being taken into consideration that in the early days of our relationship I'd respond, "Whatever you'd like" whenever he'd ask for my feedback. He was so careful about not forcing his way on me that he'd in turn respond, "No, whatever you'd like". We were so solicitous of one another that we got to the point where we'd end up not doing anything! Now we're working toward a healthy balance, and I was thrilled when he actually said he'd like to see this film.

We made our way to what I considered the best seats, dead smack in the middle, close to the screen, but not all the way in the front. Five minutes into the film, I could tell why we were the only patrons.

The film is set in a quintessential New England town in the 70s and is based on the real life story of a seventy-five year old gentleman (Gavin McCleod of The Love Boat, now a born again Christian) who befriends three twelve-year-old boys and disciples them. His evangelism and teaching is not subtle, it is overt, and any movie goer who doesn't want to sit through more than an hour of seeing the gospel message laid out clearly on the screen better head for the aisle the minute the film begins to roll.

In addition to the film being undeniably Christian, it doesn't boast a single special effect, and though I'm as far from an expert as one can get, it's cinemetography seems to be average at best. The acting is a bit forced, even stiff at times, and the dialogue is a little corny and contrived.

Despite all this, there are scenes that are profoundly moving. The one in which Jonathan Sperry teaches the boys a lesson about sharing the gospel with people while they are alive to hear it is especially poignant and reminds believers of the awesome task we have been assigned as the Lord's ambassadors here on earth.

Personally, I felt that Robert Guillaume's (famous for his sitcom role as Benson) acting was the best in the film by far. His character brought home the fact that Sperry's faith was not just one that he talked, but walked as well.

By the end of the film, viewers understand that the time Sperry invested in the lives of the young people around him had long lasting effects, not just here on earth, but for eternity.

Thoughtfully, Greg and I left the theater. We passed by other films that were still in progress and decided to duck into "Couples' Retreat", not to stay, but to see if it was one of the rare comedies we could consider watching in the future.

As quickly as we'd understood that "The Secrets of Jonathan Sperry" was as Christian as a film could get, we knew the opposite was true of "Couples Retreat". As I mentioned, I don't watch much TV and am very discriminating about the movies I watch, so I was absolutely appalled by what I saw on that screen within the space of 2 minutes. If I hadn't read with my own eyes while looking up the Sperry movie that this one was rated PG13, I would have thought we were watching something R rated. In disgust, I turned on my heel and thanked the Lord we hadn't actually paid money for what I consider smut.

I'm sorry to go off on a tangent, but I've thought about the contrast between the two films ever since. The sad thing is "Couples Retreat" is the number 1 movie in the country and "The Secrets of Jonathan Sperry" is struggling and on it's way out of the box office after less than a month.

That's one of the reasons I wanted to blog about it. I'd like to encourage any readers to go see it while you have the chance, and if possible, take your children. It's a wonderful family friendly movie with a simply profound message that is relevant to all believers, no matter our age. I'd also recommend seeing the film with someone who is seeking answers about salvation. It would open doors for meaningful conversations that might lead to them making a decision to follow Christ.

I hope you see the movie and spread the Word.

~Truly, Tammi

Tell Me Truly

My elderly great Aunt Bertie was my Jonathan Sperry. Did an older Christian brother or sister in Christ help bring you up in the faith? I'd love to hear from you.
If you are visiting the blog, please post a comment below or if you are reading this through a Facebook news feed, please post one on the blog @
I will write back. Blessings!

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Doormat or Open Door?

Tomorrow I'm training at our district's Professional Development Day. My topic is Communication Styles and Building Relationships. Another center director, Wendy, and I are team teaching. She was my mentor director when I was first hired by the company (she was actually given the task of wooing me and convincing me to go with our company over the competition), and we've spent a good deal of time together since she won me over. We usually ride to meetings together and are often paired up to do trainings. In short, we've gotten to know each other pretty well over the past two years.

Last week, we got together with all of the other directors to do a mock presentation of our training. One of the first activities is having the group complete an assessment to determine everyone's primary communication style. A summary of each style follows:

Intuitors - look forward to future with a global perspective, good with concepts, able to relate diverse thoughts and ideas into meaningful wholes, think about how systems and people interrelate, display good innovative ability and skill at looking at the "big picture" (most planners are Intuitors)

Thinkers - desire to relate to their surroundings and others by thinking things through, usually develop good analytical skills, focus on being precise and systematic in their approach to problems, focus on entire spectrum and want to know about factors that led up to a situation (historical background), what is happening now, and what outcome will be (many accountants are Thinkers)

Feelers- prefer to deal with situations according to their "feeling" perceptions, respond with gut reactions, highly sociable, use empathy and understanding in solutions to problems, perceptive of others' needs and are able to discern what lies beneath surface, time orientation is primarily toward past (many sales persons and leaders are Feelers)

Sensers - practical and action-oriented, like facts but are only interested in most relevant ones, focus on present and on the immediate goal, task oriented and need to get results, speak quickly and to the point and are so matter-of-fact their demeanor can almost seem abrupt (many judges are Sensers)

I had taken this assessment once before, in Minneapolis when I attended my new center director training, but as the other directors, including my co-presenter took it, I did it again just to see if I would score the same as I had then.

When we were finished no one was surprised that I was the only one who scored as a Feeler. Wendy asked me what I thought the disadvantages were, but before I could answer, she said, "Basically that you're a doormat." I must confess, I was a little shocked that she views me this way. I quickly pointed out that Feelers are often sales persons and leaders (skills I use daily as a child care center manager), and that I have no problem standing up when necessary, like in collecting tuition. Wendy laughed and had to concede that I d0 lay the warm fuzzies aside when parents are delinquent with their payments.

But her statement got me thinking. I've thought about it all weekend, and finally had to write about it. Am I a doormat? I know I used to be one. Being a doormat for most of my adult life got me into and kept me in many abusive relationships.

As a child I remember having strong opinions on what game to play or what to do next, but I usually just went along with the other person, not because I didn't have a preference but because peace was more important to me than getting my way. But every once in a while, when my friends wanted to doing something I didn't agree with, something that was wrong, I would stand my ground. When I did, I can remember watching surprise register on their faces. The surprise would soon be replaced with something else: respect.

So even as a child, I was a fairly peaceable person who tried to avoid conflict. Don't get me wrong, I wasn't an angel, so though I seldom started any fights, I sure finished a few! I think I was born with a strong fight or flight instinct, so if I really felt threatened or backed into a corner, say by a bully (having grown up in one of the roughest areas of the city, I encountered a few), I would defend myself.

As an adult, I continued to run into boundary busters. For a while I seemed to collect them like bad pennies. More than one person told me I must have a flashing light attached to my head that reads "Abuse me." I think that's a little extreme, but I do admit it was pretty easy to bust my boundaries because I didn't even know they existed.

Nowhere was this more evident than in my marriage. When I got married, I thought the days of having to defend myself were over. Sadly, I learned that sometimes those closest to you hurt you the most. The principal of one of the Christian schools where I taught once did a chapel service on dignity and respect. These were the things that came under attack in the early days of my abusive marriage. Even though I didn't know what boundaries were, my spirit knew mine were being busted big time. My immediate response was to go into that self defensive fight or flight mode.

As I grew in the Lord, however, my desire to stay married caused me to go too far for the sake of keeping the peace. I really did become a doormat.

Over time, as the abuse escalated, I sought counseling and was introduced to the concept of boundaries. When I attempted to set them in my marriage and with some other toxic people, the reaction was very different from that of my childhood friends when I stood up for what was right. Instead of respect, when I stood up for myself and requested that I be treated with dignity and respect, I experienced anger.

A counselor explained their reaction this way, "Of course they're angry. It took them a long time to train you to accept their abuse. How dare you decide to get healthy?"

In the book Boundaries in Marriage (Cloud and Townsend), the authors warn that when you choose to set boundaries in relationships that have been abusive, the abusers may choose to walk away from the relationship.

Am I a doormat? Quite the contrary. I'm not divorced because I'm a doormat. I'm divorced because I decided to get up off the floor. My abusive wasband didn't like that, so he chose to walk away. As did some others. There was a time when I would have been devastated by the loss of those relationships. But what kind of relationship is it when all you are good for is to be walked all over?

The thing is, I think they mistook my meekness for weakness. It was never that, it was strength (the Lord's working through me) under control.

Beside the fact that the training guide stated that Feelers are often taken advantage of, I wondered, Why does Wendy think I'm a doormat? I admit that as a manager, I am very approachable and transparent, and I do try to consider the feelings and needs of my staff, but I manage them well. Our center functions well. So I continued to wrack my brain with the question all weekend. Why does Wendy think I'm a doormat? Then I heard a song that answered it. I respect Wendy, and I look up to her as a director. We are alike in many ways (she grudgingly admits that she's a bleeding heart), except for this one. Francesca Batistelli says it for me in her song, "It's Your Life".

It's your life

What you gonna do

The world is watching you

Every day

The choices you make

Say what you are

And who your heart beats for

It's an open door...
This is your opportunity
To let your life
Be the one that lights the way

Our training doesn't just deal with communication, it addresses building relationships. I'd like to think that's what I am: a relationship builder. And an open door. In utilizing my Feeler communication style while interacting with others, and in this case with my staff members, I try to communicate with as much dignity and respect as I can. I'm trying to leave the door of my life open so that the light will shine through and make others want to take a peek inside and learn why I'm so kind, sweet, considerate, etc. (words they use about me). And I see evidence that it's working.

So am I a doormat? Or an open door?

~Truly, Tammi

Tell Me Truly

Do you think Christian are called to be doormats? Have you ever been one for the sake of keeping the peace? I'd love to hear. Please post a comment on the blog. I will write back. Blessings!

Monday, October 5, 2009

All The King's Princesses

There was a girl with a curl,

in the center of her forehead.

And when she was good,

she was very good,

but when she was bad,

she was horrid.

Liv and Destiny on Liv's 6th Birthday

(If you are reading this through a Facebook feed, please go to to see an adorable Princess Picture!)

Take that curl and multiply it exponentially and you've got my Liv.

Take that behavior and multiply it exponentially and you've got my Liv.

I must confess. I'm a little biased, but I think my daughter is physically beautiful. So do a lot of other people. "She's so pretty," is something she hears from all and sundry on a regular basis.

Liv may be beautiful, but her behavior - not so much. The same people who tell her she's beautiful are soon shocked by how bad she can be. Because of this, "Pretty is as pretty does," is something she hears from me often.

As much as I believe the cliche "Beauty is only skin deep" is true and want my daughter to be beautiful on the inside, I also want her to have a positive self image.

It breaks my heart when women like Destiny's mother, who has an amazing face, works hard to lose a significant amount of weight but says in front of our girls, "I'm still not as skinny as Ms. Tammi."

At the risk of offending some of you who know me, I have to pause and lovingly ask you to stop rolling your eyes and thinking, "Sure, that's easy for you to say. You're thin." Like I told one friend of mine who believes weight loss is the key to her happiness when she said those very words to me: "Yeah I'm thin. I'm also divorced and a single parent."

My point is, being thin or fitting into the mold of what our society considers attractive doesn't bring happiness, make our lives turn out the way we want, or fill the God shaped hole in all of us. Aren't the hollow lives of Hollywood's starlets proof of this?

I've known so many drop dead gorgeous women, of all shapes, sizes and colors, who have incredibly low self esteem. They refer to themselves as hot messes, fat cows and toads.

Precious daughters of The King, we are all Princesses who bear the likeness of our Father!

Be we rake thin, pleasantly plump, petite, statuesque, raven or tow headed, we are fearfully and wonderfully made (Psalm 139:14).

I was so glad to see Dove launch "Campaign for Real Beauty". It celebrates the unique beauty each one of us possesses, no matter what we look like.

Last night when I picked my normally curly headed princess up from her father's visit, my heart sank when I saw that her stepmother of only a few months had taken it upon herself to straighten my daughter's hair. Audacity aside, I was devastated by the loss.

Not of Liv's curls (I think they were only flat ironed), but of her innocence.

My wasband and his wife have prematurely introduced my six-year-old little girl to the grown up women's world of not being happy with what God gave her. You all know what I mean because sadly many of us live there. Those with curly hair straighten it, those with straight hair perm it, those who are fair skinned go to the tanning/cancer beds and use bronzers to get darker, those who are darker avoid the sun and use skin bleachers to get lighter, and so on and so on.

Liv preened and strutted like Miss America last night until the Hair War commenced when I basically told her to enjoy it while it lasts. Next washing (How am I ever going to accomplish that?), she's going Au natural. My reasons for this are:

#1 - I'm a single mom up at the crack of dawn and don't have the time or desire to straighten.

#2 - Liv is young, and her hair is fragile. She doesn't need to develop dried out frizz this early on.
(She can fry her hair later if she so chooses, but I'm not doing it now).

#3 - I want her to embrace her God given beauty and her princess within. This means focusing more on developing what's on the inside (a godly character that reflects her heavenly Father) than what's on the outside. Spending inordinate amounts of time on her hair is contrary to this.

In waging the Hair War I think I have an uphill battle on my hands. As Liv travels between the two homes, she's going to get two different messages about her hair, her body, her clothes. Her looks. It's already happening with her glasses. She doesn't want to wear them following visits. I can't say for certain, but I have a feeling why that is.

I want Liv to want to look more like Jesus than her new stepsister (who is only older by a year, but is way older, doesn't wear glasses, and has straight hair).

My prayer for my daughter, for all of His daughters, is that we'd look in the mirror each day and be able to look past our imperfections (real or imagined), and past what others think we should look like, to see what The King sees: His precious, pretty princesses.

~Truly Tammi

Tell Me Truly

Many of us have had our self image damaged by abusive parents, partners or other toxic people. How do we overcome this to view ourselves as God does?

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Falsehoods, Facebook and Forever Friendships

Throughout elementary and middle school though I was popular and a member of a "clique", I was still one of those girls who couldn't stand for anyone to be left out and always tried to include everyone, even those outside our "elite" circle of friends. Though I tried not to let on that I had any favorites, one particular girl and I were especially close, what would be considered BFF today.

This friend, who I'll call Shana, and I didn't get to go to the same high school (my mother insisted that since I'd passed the entrance exam for a college prep school I was going there, never mind that none of my friends were), but we'd remained as close as ever throughout freshman and the beginning of our sophomore years.

Since I hung out at Shana's school more than my own (all my friends were there after all), I began dating one of their upperclassmen. His sister and I were in the same grade and became friends. Or so I thought. She invited me to spend the night one weekend and after we told their mom and my boyfriend goodnight, the two of us sat up talking and giggling into the wee hours. I never laid eyes on her brother again until the next morning.

The following week, a vicious rumor was going around both schools about me spending the night with the boy! My friends and I tried to get to the bottom of it, but couldn't determine which of the siblings started the rumor. By that point it didn't matter to me. I was a Christian and my testimony was being ruined! I was D-O-N-E with both of them. Lest you think my response was rash, I later learned that the sister started the rumor and the brother did nothing to refute it, (he was too busy enjoying the accolades of his beastly buddies to defend my honor).

As bad as all of that sounds, it wasn't the worst part of the ordeal. The worst part was that Shana knew me and didn't defend me. She knew about my faith, she knew that I believed in remaining pure for the one God intended me to marry, she knew that I'd lost other boyfriends because of my stance - yet, not only didn't she quench the fire, she added fuel to it by jumping on the rumor wagon with an armful of malicious kindling! Talk about being D-O-N-E with someone, I was stick a fork in me DONE with her!

That was 25 years ago, and to this day I've never understood what made my s0-called best friend betray me. I don't think I was ever really angry with her, I was simply hurt beyond words. And if you know me, either in real life or through my writing, that says volumes since I'm seldom at a lack for words!

Despite my turkey analogy, I really have forgiven Shana. I actually feel sorry for her. She had a friend who would have stuck closer to her than a sister, but for whatever reason, she chose to hurt me. If I'd ever been given the opportunity, I wouldn't have hurt her in return, but I chose to keep my distance from her (The Bible does admonish us to "Be wise as serpents, harmless as doves).

More recently, as I've moved from being a domestic violence victim to a survivor and victor through Christ, I've learned that some people, people like Shana, are toxic. Because they spread venom and poison, they are not safe to be around.

When my abusive marriage ended, I allowed Satan and a few people to convince me that even those who knew me, knew my testimony, knew my walk, knew my heart, believed falsehoods that had been created by other toxic people concerning me in order to justify their wicked acts against me.

I believed these lies for almost four years. Up until a few months ago I was terrified of meeting what I considered 'former friends', especially teachers, students and parents from the Christian school where I used to teach, for fear they thought evil of me. I was also numb with shame over my failed marriage and 2 new babies born at the tail end of a total mess. The amazing thing that dispelled the falsehoods? Facebook!

From the moment I mustered enough courage to sign up, my email inbox was flooded with Facebook friend requests. I think I had 60 the first week! Most requests were from what seemed like the faithful Fellowship Christian School ghosts of my past life. I'd thought those friendships were dead and gone and I'd resolved myself to never seeing or speaking to most of them again.

How wonderfully wrong I was! My fear, shame and isolation have all been lifted and I am in community again. God overwhelmed me with the responsiveness of friends who showered me with so much love that I was brought to tears every time I logged on to Facebook. It was like I came out of hiding and they'd been there waiting for me to do it all along. Now I'm reconnected to people who know and love me - mistakes, missteps and all!

That's the thing about what happened with Shana, or what should have happened with her. Even if I was foolish to sleep over at my boyfriend's, she should have said, "I may not know exactly what happened, but I do know Tammi, so it's not what people are saying." Thankfully my virtuous name was restored by default . As I maintained my commitment to abstinence, I continued to lose boyfriends on account of it! : - )

Not long ago, in an attempt to propagate another falsehood, my wasband told me, "You forget, I know you." My response was, "No, you never knew me."

And like the song says, "If you don't know me by now, you will never, never know me."

I must confess, I'm so glad that my Facebook friends, my Fellowship friends, my forever friends do.

~ Truly, Tammi

Tell Me Truly

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Have you ever been betrayed by a friend or had a friendship you thought was lost restored?

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Knowing Nate: The Life and Testimony of Nathan Andrew Bader (August 23, 1989 - September 11, 2009)

As I sit curled up on my favorite end of the sofa reflecting on the life and testimony of my former student, Nathan Bader, who fulfilled his childhood wish of wanting to see Jesus on Friday, September 11th, I must confess my heart and mind are so full that I wonder if I can even put it all down on my limited blog page. But I must, as Nate's girlfriend said, for him.

Last Saturday, after posting my weekly blog, I went to Facebook and had my heart broken. I read a post that Nathan, who I taught in 6th grade, had been killed in a car accident. I was at my friend's house and though he has 3 boys, I happened to be alone in the room with the one in 8th grade who loves orange as much as Nate did. More than once I'd told my friend about Nate because he and James had that in common. This color connection triggered such grief that I sobbed and talked about Nate for over an hour.

I explained to Greg, my best friend and Kinsmen Redeemer, that Nate was truly his brother Ben's keeper.

I told how once when Nate's classmates were making fun of the handicapped sister of another classmate, Nate boldly spoke up and told them, "You guys should stop. You never know how many special kids you'll have."

I wept as I recalled him standing close at my desk, with the tongues of his shoes (which looked at least 2 sizes too big on the end of his scrawny legs) hanging out, getting help with his math or language. I don't know how, but in that moment, after 8 years, it was if I could feel his presence by my side.

Nathan was a part of my 9/11 experience. Everyone recalls where they were and what they were doing when they got the news. I was teaching Nathan and the other 21 students in his 6th grade class. When I heard about Nates's death on this fateful anniversary, I knew from now on I'll remember it for two reasons.

I pictured him, along with all of his classmates, standing on a set of bleachers the night of our Star Gazing Party, singing Stephen Curtis Chapman's "I'm Diving In".

I described his sweet smile. How curly his hair got when it grew out. How fair skinned he was during the colder months, and how his beautifully bronzed skin contrasted with his blue eyes in the warmer ones.

I shared how his mom Barb loved me through some of my most difficult times, when my ex-husband was at his most abusive. We were in a small group together at church and she ministered to me and my infant daughter by shopping at yard sales for toys for her (she still has the doll playpen) and watching her in the nursery. When Nate was in my room, she'd come and help on a bi-weekly basis because that's how much she loved her boy. I had experienced Barb's mommy's heart firsthand and was sick myself with what she must be going through.

Eventually, I prayed and cried myself to sleep.

All week, as I read the Facebook prayer requests for the family, and posts like 'R.I.P Nate', 'the world will never be the same' and 'still hurting, still praying', thoughts of him flooded my heart. I'd tear up and make everyone else cry whenever I told someone that I'd lost a former student.

As much as Nathan's death has affected me, I believe it has affected his friends, especially his Fellowship Christian School ones, much more. My sixth grade classes, Nathan's included, always read Bridge to Terabithia, which has now been made into a film. I feel like the teacher, Mrs. Meyers, when she tells the best friend of the girl who dies, "As hard as it is for me, I can't imagine how hard it must be for you."

Nathan's kindness impacted the lives of two of his Fellowship friends so profoundly that one dedicated a song he'd written when his mom died to Nate, and another was inspired to write a song in his remembrance about trusting God when we can't see the light in what He does. Wow.

Yesterday, as we viewed pictures of Nate as a baby, his sweetness and gentleness shone through even then. Please forgive me if this sounds sacrilegious, I truly don't mean it that way, but I wonder if Nate's mom felt what I did as I held my infant son who had the same gentle spirit: I think I have a tiny inkling of how Mary may have felt holding baby Jesus. I also have to wonder: Barb, did you know how truly special your baby boy would turn out to be?

Barb, if you read this, I believe much of what made Nate so special came from you. You did SO good Mom.

I hadn't seen Nate since he was about 17, but as I sat through the service yesterday, I got glimpses into his life that confirmed that he'd not only grown into a man of God, but one loved fiercely by Him.

It's been said, "It's better to have loved and to have lost than to never have loved at all." God loved Nate enough to allow him to experience true love in his short life. From what his girlfriend shared, they had a love most only dream of.

All of Nate's wishes came true. With amazing class, courage and composure, Barb read a wish list that Nate wrote at age 9. The first thing he wished was to be in the NBA. I understood how all of his other wishes were realized except for that one. It made me sad until I was awakened from a nap following the funeral with this thought, He was always in the NBA. Those are his initials, monogram style - NBA!

Nate wanted to make lots of friends and God blessed him with them. Four hundred cards with a breathtakingly beautiful picture of him were handed out to those who attended the visitation and funeral. My dear friend Terry, his fourth grade teacher, made sure I got one of the last four. I'm so thankful to have it propped here now as I write my tribute to him.

I learned this about Nate yesterday: He did nothing that meant something to him by half measures. He lived by what the song, "Seize the Day" encourages us to do:

Seize the day,
Seize whatever you can,
Cause life slips away just like hour glass sand.
Seize the day,
Pray for grace from God's hand,
Let nothing stand in your way,
Seize the day.

God doesn't do anything by half measures either and everything is by His design. I've never been inside an orange sanctuary before, but I believe it wasn't happenstance that the walls of this one wrapped around Nate's coffin, enveloping him in the color he loved. Nor was it happenstance that a boy from Ohio was on the road in California at the time of his orange sunset.
God wanted Nate to go out in a blaze of orange glory, and He wanted him Home.

As I drove from the funeral to my temporary home, I passed all of the orange construction barrels in my area, and I thought once again, as I have so often this week, that although it has never been a favorite color of mine, it will now serve to remind me that one day we'll see Nate again in our eternal home.

I looked Nate up on Facebook when I got home and regretted that I hadn't requested his FB friendship. It's too late for that now, but I'm comforted by the fact that "friends are friends forever if the Lord's the lord of them." He's not my FB friend, but like other loved ones who've gone before me, he's my friend in high places. One day, we'll live a lifetime, an eternity, as friends.

Nate, it was a privilege being your teacher. It was a privilege to be taught by you.

Nate, to know you is to love you. And I do.

~Truly, Mrs. Fisse