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

Saturday, September 12, 2009


I must confess. Lately I've been struck by how so many things that have been around for a long time have recently ceased to exist.

Today's Christian Woman magazine has been a source of information and inspiration for women of all ages and backgrounds for the last 3 decades. The last issue contained a notice saying it was the final one.

As a newly divorced single mom struggling to make ends meet, Rachel Ashwell opened her first Shabby Chic store 20 years ago and built a decorating empire. Her vision for creating spaces that are beautiful, comfortable and functional influenced interior design and impacted the way many of us shop and live. In 2008 she was forced to close the doors of all of her stores and only her Simply Shabby Chic line available through Target, her website and blog remain.

In April of this year, I was fortunate enough to hire a 30 year veteran in the child care field whose wealth of experience includes owning and operating two learning centers in our area. Though she is a wonderful asset to my team and I am very grateful to have her, I'm saddened by the fact that the loss of her centers was my gain. She applied for a teaching position at my center after being CEO and admininstrator of her own.

The first verse in Martina McBride's beautiful song, "Anyway" describes what has occurred in these situations well: "You can spend your whole life building something from nothing, one storm can come and blow it all away, build it anyway".

The stories I've shared involve women who have put their hearts, minds, soul and strength into something that did not last. The thing that amazes me is that despite the loss of what they built, they have not lost the passion that caused them to build it in the first place. I believe it's because they feel it was worth it while it lasted.

For 11 months I poured my heart, mind, soul and strength into fighting for full custody of my children. I was awarded full custody and for almost 3 years have been blessed to have my children with me the majority of the time, raising them under a Godly influence and impacting their lives for Christ.

This week I go to court to try to maintain what I have. Their father would like to have them 50% of the time, and I'm strongly opposed to this. It's not that I don't want them to love their father. On the contrary, my prayer is that they would have a good relationship with him because our relationship with our heavenly Father is often colored by our relationship with our earthly one. The problem I have with this time split is that our two homes are very different and the dichotomy in lifestyle, standards, expectations, and most importantly moral and religious values is so great that I fear my children will be confused by the differences. This could have long lasting spiritual and even eternal ramifications.

The chorus in Martina's country song with a Christian message says, "God is great, but sometimes life ain't good, when I pray, doesn't always turn out like I think it should, but I do it anyway. "

I'm praying for court to turn out the way I think it should, but I'm also praying as Jesus did, "Not my will but Thine be done". In my prayer, like Hannah did with Samuel, I commit my children to the Lord, confident that He loves them even more than I do.

Rachel Ashwell not only expresses herself through creating lovely spaces, she often does it through lovely sentiments. A statement she makes in her latest book, Shabby Chic Interiors, is an example of such a sentiment: "The acceptance that nothing lasts forever should not deter from making an experience as wonderful as it can be, during its time."

The fight for my children has been worth it.

My time with my children has been wonderful.

Whether it changes or remains the same, please pray for me that I will:

Keep my passion for parenting with a view toward eternity.

Take comfort in the fact that since I'm doing it for Christ, no matter what happens in court, what I've invested in my children will last.

Praise Him Anyway.

~Truly Tammi

Saturday, September 5, 2009

Titles on Tammi's Bookshelf: Any Minute by Joyce Meyer and Deborah Bedford

Most people know Joyce Meyer from her Bible teaching and her New York Times bestselling inspirational books, and some may know that Any Minute is not her first work of fiction. The Penny was the first novel she wrote with Deborah Bedford.

I must confess, I didn't know that Meyer had written a previous novel and was delighted to discover her second at my local supermarket (perusing the book and magazine section takes some of the drudgery out of grocery shopping, and if I happen to make a serendipitous find like this one, turns it into a treat).

Sarah Harper is a woman who gets what she wants, most often at the expense of others. She is so determined to achieve and succeed at work that she uses the people there to climb the corporate ladder and gain the things she desires, while at home she neglects her husband and two young children and is losing what is most important.

As a commodities trader, Sarah is driven. In more ways than one. Not only is she a force to be reckoned with on the trading floor, she's one to steer clear of on the way to the office as well. Sarah is notorious for the reckless Nascaresque maneuvers she dares in her Lincoln MKX as she vies for the coveted spot in the parking tower closest to the elevator. She is willing to do whatever it takes to 'get hers'. And everyone knows it.

With her self-centered tunnel vision, Sarah is blind to the fact that she is speeding headlong toward a collision that will alter the course of her life and the lives of all those around her.

Though she finally has to admit that she's floundering in all of her relationships, and especially with her husband, Joe, try as she might, Sarah is unable to strike a balance between advancing her career and saving her marriage. Every time she gets ahead at work, she and Joe take several steps backwards at home. As she struggles with self esteem issues stemming from her painful past where she could never earn her mother's approval or praise, she continues to self medicate on the high she receives whenever she receives recognition at work. Because she needs this rush, and is addicted to it, she continues to nurture her professional life and sorely neglect her private one.

Mitchell, Sarah's perceptive little eight-year-old Chicago Cubs fan, feels the strain on the home front more than either of his parents realize. Though his vision is impaired, he is able to see things that they miss. Like the man in the scoreboard at Wrigley Field who later appears as a homeless beggar searching for shoes on the Windy City's streets. With his childlike faith, Mitchell is not surprised by the instrumental role this eccentric character will play in his family's life.

One fateful morning Sarah's 'take what you want from life' attitude spurs her to try to beat a bridge closing over the river. Her Lincoln plummets into the water, but Sarah's spirit is suspended somewhere between life and death. The lessons she learns about priorities and the value she has in Christ as she hangs in the balance cause her to long to go back and do life differently. But will she be given the chance?

Any Minute is a timely novel that paints a vivid picture of a woman juggling home and career while desperately searching for a sense of self worth. Whether we work outside the home out of necessity, a desire for professional and/or personal fulfillment, or in an attempt to establish our worth through our contributions, trying to divide and compartmentalize home and work is a full-time job in and of itself.

This has seldom been more apparent to me than it was this week. My son was very sick from last Sunday afternoon until yesterday. So sick that I wanted nothing more than to be home with him. But alas, it was also the week my regional vice president was scheduled to visit my child care center. Needless to say, it was not a good week for me to call off.

For four days I performed an intricate dance of trying to take care of my sick child (two doctor visits, interrupted sleep, etc.), my well child (Kindergarten Open House/Picnic), and trying not to compromise my job performance (no small fete as you working moms know). It was physically, logistically and emotionally challenging.

Thankfully I have the support of faithful friends, a super staff, and strength from my Heavenly Father who enables me to keep all the balls in the air. What a relief it is to know that as I hold everything on my plate, He holds me.

Sarah was a commodities broker who didn't know her own value. Since I've come to see myself through my Father's eyes, I do. Like her, it would be so easy to let the hurts of my abusive past make me believe that I'm not worth anything, no matter what I accomplish or acquire.

Instead, like Sarah's son, I'm able to see what the world sometimes misses - that apart from anything the world uses to measure success - I'm immeasurably valuable to Him. I'm pretty sure being a dedicated mother and a hard working employee are just bonuses as far as He's concerned. He treasures me because I'm His precious daughter.

And so are you.

~Truly Tammi