“P” is what they called her! She had big brown “Popeyes” and ponytails. “P” was only four years old but she can vividly remember everything as if it was yesterday. She was living in Washington, D.C. with her father, mother and youngest sister. “P’s” mother wasn’t too thrilled about raising her family in the District of Columbia so they loaded up the car and moved back to the country, Caroline County, VA to join up with “P’s” two older sisters who were residing with other relatives during that time. Both “P’s” dad and mom’s jobs had relocated them to D.C. but now it was time to go because “P” would be starting Pre-Kindergarten and a new baby brother was soon to come. Back then it was a privilege to attend Pre-K because it wasn’t offered prevalently as it is in the school system today. “P” was so excited about going to school! In Pre-K she learned all the basics and more that prepared her for Kindergarten and First grade and she was actually a smart little girl who loved to read and received countless recognition from her Pre-K teacher for all her accomplishments and achievements.
Growing up in the country computers, cell phones and cable T.V. were virtually non-existent so “P”, her siblings and cousins always created their own fun and games. “P’s” mother had seven sisters and two brothers and they always came together at one of their homes to eat, play cards, listen to music, dance and have family fun. It was absolutely unheard of for children to be amongst grown-up conversations and entertainment so when the meal wrapped up they knew it was their cue to go outside and play. “P”, her siblings and cousins didn’t mind; they actually looked forward to playing outside. They made swings from trees using tire inner tubes, found old furniture to decorate their club houses in the woods, played hide-n-go seek, marbles, Simon Says, 1-2-3 red light and so many more of those traditional children’s games. The kids today don’t have a clue about “creative fun” due to all the modern day technology and social media.
Snow days generally meant there was no school due to the icy country roads so they would gather together to play board and card games such as spades and Pokeno. Walking to Rozell’s, the neighborhood country store, was the highlight of all! They would layer up with two and three pairs of socks on their feet, boots, coat, a hat and scarf and – when there were no gloves – socks served the purpose to warm their hands. The most important family activity of all that “P” looked forward to every week was Sunday school and church service on Sunday mornings. She was so excited about going that she would start preparing herself on Saturday evening. “P’s” siblings called her a “holy-roller” because they didn’t want to go to church as often as she did, but this didn’t stop “P” she would burst into tears if she was told she couldn’t go to church. Little did she know this was just the beginning of her Faith walk and love for God.
I’ll tell you a secret about “P”, she was known as the “spoiled one” of the family. I’m sure some of you can relate to this, you’ve probably earned the t-shirt and worn it well. “P’s” father used to say, “she is just like my momma” and those words were sentimental to him because “P” reminded him so much of his momma and for that “boo and pootie-rat ” as he called her could do no wrong in her daddy’s eyes! On the other hand, “P’s” mother was a Proverbs 13:24 woman believing, “whoever spares the rod hates their children, but the one who loves their children is careful to discipline them.” Whenever “P” deserved a good ole’ butt whipping her mother didn’t hesitate to give it to her but if daddy was around he would say, “Leave boo alone.” Well, this didn’t sit too well with her siblings so there was always a rivalry or a settling of a score to be had and whenever “P’s” parents would leave to go hang out with family and friends, they all did things they were told not to do. Many times “P’s” siblings would lock her in the closet so she couldn’t participate in their activities because when she did participate, she would wait until their parents returned home and tell “dear dad and mom” everything!
Yikes! “P’s” daddy would then turn into the Proverbs 13:24 father and her siblings would get the beat down! Boy, were there ever some consequences to pay for being a tattletale! “P” was beaten, scared with a rubber snake, called names, threatened – whatever punishments her siblings believed were necessary was how they evened the score! Those were the days! “P” knew her siblings loved her; they just didn’t like her because she was a tattletale and a daddy’s girl all because, “she looks just like my momma!” Growing up certainly had its challenges like most families do, times were tough back then and finances were limited too. “P’s” mother was a hard-worker and did the very best she could raising six children because “Ole Poppa” was a rolling stone! He kept the wheels on the car shining and rolling, rolling, rolling, rolling, rolling on a river! He would shine those shoes, put on what we called his glad rags and tell “P’s” mother, “I will be back in about an hour or an hour and a half” which would turn into days or weeks but that was still “Ole Poppa”!
“P” learned at an early age that the women back then were not only faithful but also committed to their husbands and the father of their children for sure! It didn’t matter what they went through, they hung in there and worked it out even if that meant fighting it out or arguing their point or by any means necessary and then making up as if nothing ever happened. It’s called sweeping the dirt under the rug. Now that was really strange to “P”, all she knew was something was very wrong about that picture and if that was how life was to be lived and relationships were to be experienced she wanted no part of it. Thank God that some children are pretty resilient and can bounce right back from traumatic situations; others suffer from something called Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs), potentially traumatic events that can have a negative, lasting effect on a person’s health and well-being. These experiences range from physical, emotional, or sexual abuse to parental divorce, domestic violence or the incarceration of a parent or guardian.
Studies show that adults who experienced ACEs adopt health risk behaviors as coping mechanisms (e.g., eating disorders, smoking, substance abuse, self-harm, sexual promiscuity). There are also added medical conditions for those suffering with ACEs such as heart disease, pulmonary disease, liver disease, STDs and gynecologic cancer as well as early death (Felitti et al, 1998). So while a child may appear to be normal the release of profound anguish and anxiety, due to these ACEs can overtake their minds. This can manifest in uncontrollable anger and outbursts, depression, stress, anxiety and attention seeking.
“P” learned that her parents experienced some ACEs of their own – alcohol abuse and domestic violence had been passed down for generations in “P’s” family. I’m sure some of you can relate to this. The Bible speaks of the “Sins of the Father”, “Keeping mercy for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, and that will by no means clear [the guilty]; visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children, and upon the children’s children, unto the third and to the fourth generation (Exodus 34:17). You see, the model or system that you see will be the model that you duplicate and it will be passed down for generations to come until you have seen or experienced something different. “P” can remember the anxiety and stress she felt when “Ole Poppa’s” car would pull up in the driveway after he had been gone for days. She knew that something was about to “pop off” because “P’s” mother was certainly not a push over. “P” would run to greet daddy because just as she could do no wrong in his eye, he could do no wrong in her eyes. However, this didn’t sit too well with “P’s” mother and it increased her aggravation at “Ole Poppa” for his absence. Her interrogation and his one word explanations led from one thing to another and it was on and Poppin! “P” decided she was not leaving the home in the midst of her mother and father’s disputes. She was a peacemaker, “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall see God” (Matthew 5:9) and “P” was not about to see her mother and father hurt one another.
Surely, there were times that “P” could have been seriously injured in the midst of all the chaos but she had the spirit of a “Bulldog”, full of tenacity and strength. When she put her mind to something she was going to see it through and that’s still her motto today. “P” was determined to get her mother and father’s attention, they needed to know she was there and wasn’t going anywhere! If they were going to take each other down, she was going down with them. Let me tell you, “God is a good God!” Not only did God keep everyone from hurt, harm and danger but “P’s” mother and father are still together after 55 years, Praise God! Unfortunately “P” brought many of her childhood ACEs into her marriage. She didn’t realize the level of anxiety, anger, stress and un-forgiveness she had on the inside. “P” also learned later on in her marriage that she was unable to bear children which made the matters worse. In spite of “P’s” inability to bear children, God blessed her with four beautiful Godchildren, J’haun, India, Ciera and Jada whom she loves dearly.
“P” didn’t realize that one day God would use her strength and tenacity as His mouthpiece to His people, “But the Lord said to me, “Do not say, ‘I am too young.’ You must go to everyone I send you to and say whatever I command you” (Jeremiah 1:7). How many of you know the devil didn’t like the fact that God had a purpose and a plan for “Ps” life? No matter what ACEs she experienced, they became the catalyst of her message of F.A.I.T.H., “Forsaking All I Trust Him.” God would still get the glory out of every adverse situation and circumstance. “For I know the plans I have for you declares the Lord, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future” (Jeremiah 29:11).
I’d like to tell you a story about “P” when she was fifteen years old.
….It was a cold Saturday in December 1981, “Ps” mother decided to do something extraordinary, different, unusual – she took her six children to the mall Christmas shopping which was something absolutely unheard of. She understood very well the hustle and bustle of holiday shopping and the overwhelming crowds they would have to brave, but it was Christmas! “P’s” mother laid down the ground rules with all six children prior to getting out of the car and going into the mall. She said, “I want all of you to stay together so you don’t get lost in this craziness!” Do you think they all listened? Not “P”, she had her mind set on a specific quest. You see she was a very fashionable and classy kind of girl who enjoyed the finer things in life. She was different, set apart and unique! She was even labeled by family members as being hard to please – and don’t forget – spoiled!
Like many young people “P” felt the pressure of trying to keep up with the latest and greatest fashions in school and the neighborhood trends. She actually got her first job at the age of thirteen through the Youth Summer Program where she was introduced to responsibility and earning her own money at a pretty early age. On this particular day she had her mind set on her favorite perfume at Leggett’s department store called “Scoundrel” by Revlon, “Oh yeah”, she said, that stuff was the bomb and you could smell it for miles! At that time it cost about $70 but that didn’t matter, she just had to have it. There was only one small problem. She had spent all of her money on other Christmas items she had purchased. Out of curiosity, she wondered, just how hard would it be to shoplift? She had already witnessed some friends do it for years and they were good at it too, so they thought! You could go in the store with them, pick out all the clothes and shoes you wanted and then leave the store and go back to the car. Before long they would come out loaded with everything you wanted and more! How many of you know those you hang around you become so you know what happened next right? Yep, “P” decided to take the chance of stealing the perfume. Placing the bottle of perfume into the bag with other items she had purchased, she left Leggett’s and was nearly out of the mall when she felt a stern tap on her shoulder by a tall Caucasian lady in plain clothes. “Oh My God!” The lady informed “P” that she had reason to believe that she had taken something from the store without paying for it and asked if she would come back with her to the store to answer some questions. “P’s” heart began to pound outside of her chest! Have you ever been at a place in your life where you literally thought you got away with something but you really didn’t? “Nothing in all creation is hidden from God’s sight. Everything is uncovered and laid bare before the eyes of him to whom we must give account” (Hebrews 4:13).
By this time, “P” had become very nervous because she knew she was guilty! Her mind began to race, should she run? If she did, would they catch her and if so, would it only make things worse? So many questions raced through her mind. In hope they wouldn’t find the perfume she decided to cooperate and follow the lady back to the store. When they arrived the lady called for a police officer and they began interrogating “P” about the merchandise for what seemed like hours but in actuality was only thirty minutes. The police officer gave “P” the option of searching her person or she could surrender the merchandise on her own. “P” finally broke down and surrendered the “Scoundrel” perfume.
Her family had finished their shopping and after looking all over the mall for “P” and even having her paged by mall security with no response they returned to their car. Little did they know, “P” had just spent the last hour being interrogated about what would soon become a misdemeanor charge! All she could think of was what would her mother say and, what would her siblings and everyone else who thought so highly of her think? Once the police were finished with the questioning and explaining to “P” what would happen next they told her she could go but they had to release her into a parent’s custody because she was a juvenile. “P” informed the officer that she had come to the mall with her family who by this time were probably worried sick and looking all over for her. The officer then escorted “P” out of the mall to the area where she remembered the car being parked. “P” hoped her family had not left her. Fortunately, they were still there. The officer explained the shoplifting charge to “P’s” mother, asked her to sign some papers and informed her mother that she would receive additional paperwork in the mail about the court date. Then he released “P” into her mother’s custody. The look of disgust and disappointment on everyone’s face as she climbed into the back seat of the car was something she will never forget. Oh the embarrassment and shame “P” felt on the inside. She thought her life was ruined for sure.
That was a long ride home for “P!” She prayed silently to herself as she gazed out of the window feeling sick to her stomach! One thing that came to mind on the ride home was not only had she let her family down but also she had let God down. One of the commandments she had learned in Sunday school was, “thou shall not steal,” but why hadn’t she listened? When the family arrived back home, “P” had dinner then was sent to her room to think about what had happened that day. As she laid there thinking about all that had happened she knew she was going to “get it” more from mom than dad because, after all, she was “boo and pootie rat” and could do no wrong in dad’s eyes. Later that night “P’s” mother placed her on punishment for a couple of weeks which meant no hanging out in Fredericksburg with her cousins or doing any of the fun activities she enjoyed such as Skate Land, house parties and sleepovers with friends. Oh well, it was well deserved. There was one more thing “P” remembered she needed to do and that was to repent (feel or express sincere regret or remorse about one’s wrongdoing or sin) and ask God for forgiveness for stealing the perfume. After doing this she cried herself to sleep.
Waking up she wished it were all a dream! What would her legal consequences be? Would she have to spend time in a juvenile center? How would God see her through this painful experience? But see her through He did! In what seemed to be so insurmountable at that time, God’s grace and mercy prevailed! “P’s” sentence was 80 hours of community service, a suspended driver’s license for six months, one year of probation and she was banned from Leggett Department store until adulthood!
Whew! Surely, God had big plans for her life and had captured her attention for sure because things could have been so much worse! She made a vow to the Lord that day that when she was of age she would pay it forward by volunteering and ministering to those who are incarcerated by sharing her testimony. God’s GRACE and MERCY had delivered her and given her another chance to get it right! If you haven’t figured it out already, that fifteen-year-old girl named “P” is me I am so humbled and thankful to God for His unveiling love, grace, mercy and forgiveness! Some might say, oh that’s nothing compared to what others have gone through but I say, “It’s my Story for God’s Glory!”
“Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego came out of the fire, and the satraps, prefects, governors and royal advisers crowded around them. They saw that the fire had not harmed their bodies, nor was a hair of their heads singed; their robes were not scorched, and there was no smell of fire on them” (Daniel 3:27). Not only will God bring you out of the fire but also you will come out not smelling like smoke! In other words, there will be no residue of your past for the blood of the lamb has washed it away! “I even I am he that blots out all of your transgressions and your sins I will remember no more” (Isaiah 43:25). Jesus declares that not only will He forgive us of our sins but He will remember them no more. He takes no pleasure in holding anything over our heads, that’s the trick of the enemy to keep you in condemnation (feeling guilty, ashamed, disapproved) but God said “There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the spirit” (Romans 8:1).
I was searching for love in all the wrong people, places and things. Although I had accepted the Lord Jesus Christ as my personal Saviour and been baptized, there were still so many times I felt all alone in life. I didn’t know just how much my heavenly father loved me and while I felt alone, I was really never alone because God was right there with me all the time. I knew about the things of God and “Religion”, but I didn’t truly have a “Relationship” with God! FEAR (false evidence appearing real) and anxiety had gripped my life and I was wearing a mask to cover up all my hurt, pain and shame. Are you wearing a mask today to cover up your hurts, pain, guilt and shame? If so, I encourage you to pray this prayer with me, believe it in your heart and receive God’s unconditional love.
….Father God, I come to you today wounded and scarred but I ask you to come into my life and take total control, forgive me of my sins and give me a fresh start. I thank you for sending your son Jesus to die on the cross for all of my hurts, pain, guilt and shame and setting me free from all my fears and I release the masks in Jesus name, Amen.