Bienvenue (Welcome) to My Mess

I am having a productive day. I have too few of these. I:

-got people on their way

-made the bed

-made a new fridge calendar

-made calls



-picked Lilli up from the bus stop

-fixed dinner

-did mom stuff

All done.

Then, I started thinking about my dad. The day he broke all the dishes and broke our hearts.

We lived on 20 acres, just outside a small town, near Kansas City. My parents were fighting and for a few hours one night, we left to get away from my dad. He was in a rage and there was no staying in the house when he was like that. We finally returned at the end of the evening when he was sure to be at work (he worked overnights) and what we found was a disaster.

I stepped inside our double-wide trailer, through the back door, and I could not see the floor. It was covered in broken dishes, clothes, trash, books, stuff. I could only walk on top of things. A bomb had gone off. My father’s ticking temper.

There were gouges in the fake wood paneling in the living room. There were broken pieces of wood used to stab the fake wood paneling. You couldn’t tell what had been spared and what hadn’t. The feeling I had was a mix of profound confusion, anxiety, fear, anger and deep, deep sadness. This feeling was not abnormal.

I don’t know why I flashed on that. But I also flashed on the things he used to tell me. How lazy I was. Would he be proud? Would he still complain? Am I good enough? What motivates me to be productive during the day? Is it love or justification?

And I began to fight with him (really I was arguing with myself, becuz he’s dead, he can’t fight) and I defended Me. I said to him,

You never taught me. You were too busy, too tired, too selfish, too crazy, too weak, too dumb to teach me. It was your fault that I was never able to accomplish anything.

And then I had to stop.

First of all, I’m not lazy, but I am broken. I struggle. Who doesn’t?

Second of all, you are all by yourself. Who are you talking to? Stop fighting with a dead man. He’s dead, he doesn’t think, feel, say, do anything bad any more. His burden of this harsh life was shuffled off a long time ago. He no longer judges me for my shortcomings. He can only see me through eyes that are no longer blinded by loathing, eyes that have seen paradise. He can’t feel anything bad any more, including disgust for me.

He treated me the way his father (mis)treated him. And then I really broke down.

When I realized my purpose.

This is my one chance, this life, to atone for the sins of my family and the years of abuse by taking all the responsibility of the past and choosing to move forward, in spite of the chaos, with a positive, loving heart. I see the wave of the past and I am the one to survive it. I won’t be taken by it. And I shield my own daughter from any more hurt. I take it. I can take it. I can take it and turn it around. I give my daughter the life I needed and wanted. I can withstand the wave because I am powerful, loving and disciplined through God’s spirit. Through God’s holy power, I will not drown in this abuse.

2 Timothy 1:7 For the Spirit God gave us does not make us timid, but gives us power, love and self-discipline.

I’m willing to atone for my father, and his father, and every member of the past. And I do that willingly from a place of love and sacrifice and thankfulness. I choose something better. I don’t have to blame him, me or anyone else. I choose something beautiful for my family now. I choose to be smart and turn my whole legacy around. I choose to follow God and show my daughter where to go and where to look.

So thankful that when she sits down to eat breakfast, even tho she’s all alone, she bows her head to pray. Even when no one is watching. Then I know she has a relationship with God.

Every evil desire and abuse comes pouring into me. And I funnel that through Christ, and He turns that evil into good.


I am the bowl of refinement. I am the one who is intelligent enough to take what happened and boil it down and filter it. I take the brunt. I was meant for this purpose. I was made, if for no other reason, to give Lilli her chance.  God has amazing plans for my daughter and unless I took the beating of bad words and broken plates, she couldn’t get to where she needed to go.

Those broken nights so long ago made me. And I made her.

Christ took our punishment so we can get to where we need to go. If He can do that, I can do this.

I do what no one else could do. I stop it all from continuing. I lay down and die to myself so that my daughter doesn’t have to know what I know. My life is a sacrifice for her and then I truly understand why God sent Jesus. So we could do better.



(This is a real dream I had. I was never sexually abused, although I was verbally, emotionally and on rare occasions, physically abused. I believe the dream is a representation of the violation to one’s most private being–the thing that makes us holy and unique. Not actual sex. No one talks about our hearts being penetrated.)
There are moments in this life where the entire world slows down for just a second. Noises are blurred, images are paused and focused. And for a brief, fluttering instant we can experience a perfect communion with the eternal; a recognition of the divine. This moment hangs on like a perfectly formed raindrop, clinging to the surface of the present, waiting for the next moment to be bumped forward and resume the electric pace of the ordinary.
It’s a wet, rainy day. Gray, cloudy and cold. I find myself on the street outside my grandmother’s house. Grandma Shark, the one with the droopy earlobes. This is the house where she lived when I was a child. It’s cluttered with distant, whispering voices and the rooms are hidden and dirty. The house is huge.
Mists of breath, I pace along the sidewalk, waiting just outside. Then he’s just there. A young boy. He’s only 8 or 9, with blonde hair and large, round eyes. When I look into his eyes, they flap. Huge, like a fish. His lids spasm with long lashes and the motion is slowed. The boy asks me to ride with him and his grandfather in a car. Then I see him for the first time. The grandfather. He’s intimidating and silent, never speaks. I can tell he is angry and expectant. What does he want? Danger fills the spaces between me, the boy and the man.
Cut to the car. We ride together in a huge car. It is dingy and cold inside. The seats are stiff, slick, stained and dusty. The edges are torn and rugged. We rock and lurch down the street. I use my numb fingers to wipe away the fog on the glass. I rip my hand open on some jagged rusty metal holding in the window. It’s bleeding and I’m breathing through my teeth. I am in the back seat with the boy to protect him.
The old man grabs my legs and holds them tightly from the front seat. He won’t let go and he tries to touch me. His hands grope my thigh. I struggle and push him away. He touches my…the tears come. My cheeks are on fire. He won’t let go. I fight. I hit his arms. He stops groping me and grabs my legs tight. I look over to the driver’s seat and no one is driving. I look at him in the rearview mirror and I ask without words.
“Are you gonna grab the wheel??”
He shakes his head.
And he looks away. He has resolved to die. The car crests a hill. It picks up speed. I can see houses at the end of the street. They’re dark, the sun is setting. There’s a lake just beyond the houses. We’re speeding towards the black water. The steering wheel begins to wobble. I think for an instant about diving for the floor, the brake, the wheel…I buckle the boy and then slide to the floorboard. We’re gonna crash.
Then I panic again inside. What if we hit the water? Can we escape before we drown? I’m not doing anything! I look at the boy.
I’m awake now. My heart is racing.


(This is an article that I wrote for our former church’s Sunday program. I interviewed the wife of a couple at Shoal Creek in Pleasant Valley, MO. They were new to the church and I was new to the writing team. This was my first time writing an article from an interview. Their story still inspires me. It was great to sit down with someone and document their spiritual journey. She was so open and honest. I would love to do it again. NOTE: I did change their names to protect their very private story.)
It was just last fall. October 2011. Melissa came to a crossroads. Literally. On her way to church for the first time in a while, sitting at the stoplight of I-35, 69 Highway and Pleasant Valley Road, she asked God to lead her.
Which way? Do I go back to the church I know? Or do I try Shoal Creek? Which way, God?
Melissa knew she needed God. But where would she find Him?
Earlier in the year, in February, Melissa experienced the worst possible moment in a marriage, the moment your spouse reveals a secret. Any secret can leave someone feeling vulnerable, anxious and overwhelmed, but this secret was devastating. He had betrayed her by being intimate with another person. However fleeting the encounter, the indiscretion left Melissa reeling and unable to trust. Understandably.
Soon though, words of wisdom rushed back to her. Words from her mother.
Nothing worth doing is ever easy.
Melissa was ready to begin the journey toward reconciliation. Over the next rocky part of almost a year, Melissa and Rick went up and down on their return to faithfulness, a trail that is still being blazed.
Rick, for many years, was living like all of us, leading a very self-centered and self-focused life. He was in crisis.
Who am I? What do I want? What am I good for?
Something was missing. Rick thought that their marriage, their relationship, was missing some important ingredient. He was right. Sort of. Melissa knew what “the something” was. It was God. But how could she tell him?
Melissa’s friend had mentioned how much she enjoyed Shoal Creek. How different Shoal Creek was compared to traditional church. This was a surprise to Melissa because she knew her friend was definitely not a Mrs. McChurchy-pants. Her friend’s approval of Shoal Creek intrigued Melissa.
She turned right that fall day back in October. And she turned right into God. She wandered into the office at Shoal Creek and struggled through tears to finally ask for help. “Can I talk to someone?”
One of our senior staff members was there. He waited patiently for ten minutes while Melissa just cried. He listened for an hour and a half. Then he asked to meet with Rick and Melissa that Saturday afternoon for another hour and a half. This was an answer to prayer. Melissa had tried to contact a counselor and it would have been weeks before an actual appointment.
This leader could have been anyone. And he will kick the dirt and say, “Aw, shucks, it was all God.” BUT, it is because of his obedience and submission to God that this reconnection was made. God was able to use him. He revealed the worst parts of himself to reach that couple. He humbled himself to Melissa, to Rick and to God. He knew that God uses our sin and our mistakes for His plans.
Isn’t it miraculous that God can use every experience, good or bad, that formed and guided us for His glory? For His service, for His individual life-changing plans for our lives and in each other’s lives. Praise God.
From that day forward, God has moved slowly and amazingly in Melissa and Rick’s lives. Like a river, He has swept away the selfishness, settled the hurt and moved their hearts with the current of forgiveness and grace.
One day, Melissa was concerned and anxious about the past relationship. She thought, “Will this always be a part of who we are? Does he still think about her?”
She shared her anxiety with him. Rick touched her face with a sense of urgency, “I’m not that man anymore. You don’t have worry about that anymore.” Praise God.
Praise God that this bridge across the city was built, that these connections were made. These acts of selflessness change the course of people’s lives and demonstrate the vision of Christ. If we know the grace of God and do not share that, we are on a dead-end road. Whether it is across the room, across the street or across the world, God wants us to build those bridges. When someone’s life bottoms out and is washed away with the storm, we are the bridge-builders. God is the architect, but we are the hands for His plans. We are called to show God’s love so that others may know and see the truth, to see the way forward. Which way and to whom will you turn when you find yourself at the crossroads?Make those connections this year, this week, today…now.

Present Tense (Excerpt 2)

My memories erupt like dead-gray trees out of the dark depths where feelings feed.  I am a stone at the bottom, seen through the swirls.  I want to rise, but am unmoved by the ceaseless currents of the past.  The only place that these things, water and relationships live are in my mind.

I give them life.  I continue their being.  The runoff from the past floods around my chin.  It’s rising fast.  My feelings spill out, spill down, splash and crash, there’s no stopping them.  Play in them.  Drown in them.

This water should baptize and bless me.  But it threatens to sink me.  I still bend to his will even though his will does not exist any longer.  He has possessed my spirit from this sunken tomb of emotion.  I drown.

Dear Reader,

This is an excerpt from my short vignette-style memoir. Available on Amazon.  Check out my book.  FREE for a limited time.  Enjoy!


Martha Maggio

Survived By…(Volume 3)

Broke Down by Martha Maggio

 I hate this car.                                                               

I was driving home from the dinky, little office job I had snatched up and latched onto a few weeks ago.  It was in the next town over and totally mindless.  I knew if I stayed home any longer, I would shave my head again and break the promise I made to Syl.  So, I was making money and not driving anyone crazy, but I had to drive myself crazy (and to work) in this strange, ridiculous, impractical vehicle every day.  I asked him not to buy it, but he made it clear that it was important to him.  How could I argue with a dying person?

But now I’m stuck with it.  I was just another SUV in the drop-off line.  Another SUV in the fast lane.  Another gas-guzzling, soul-sucking status symbol.

I’ve got to trade this in.

But then I knew what that would mean.  Dealing with a car salesman.

You can wait.

All I seemed to do these days was wait.  Wait for the pain to go away, wait for his benefits to come in the mail, wait for my child to talk to me, wait in this endless line of traffic to get on the highway.  I couldn’t see much past wipers, rain and blurry red taillights.

I turned on the radio while I waited.  Probably a wreck.  I hadn’t even really looked at all the features on the dash.  I started pushing buttons.  I opened the console.  The sunglass nook.  And then the glove box.

Did anyone keep gloves in there anymore?  Do they still call it a glove box?

And on top of the owner’s manual was an envelope.  My name was printed on the front.


I could hear him say my name.  His voice, not mine.  My face liquified at the sound.

Why do I look at myself in the mirror when I cry?

The rearview mirror was right there and too tempting to avoid.

Feel this.  Look at this.

The tears reminded me of streaked ammonia over a well-paced linoleum floor.  I mopped them up with some napkins from the glove box.  I pulled over to the side of the road and pushed my hazards on.  The light wouldn’t come on.

Dammit.  I hate this car.

Finally, the button depressed.  Some slow, left-over drops fell from my chin and onto the paper as I tore the envelope open.  My phone dinged.  It was a text from my mom.  But I had to read this first.


     I know you didn’t want this beast of a car.  But I wanted it for you and Syl.  It’s the safest car on        the road.  I wanted my girls to be safe.  It’s the last thing I could do for you.  I love you.  You’re            the last woman I’ll ever love and I’m so thankful for that.  Don’t sell it.  Keep it.




I love this car.

I just sat in the car.  By the curb.  In the rain.  I read the letter over and over again.  I wasn’t aware of the time until my phone chimed again.  This time, a text from Syl.


Soon Enough by Lillian Maggio

I’m quitting school.  I’m running away.  And I’m taking Max with me.

I sat in the back of the bus.  Max had gone home early with a bloody nose and I was riding home alone.  It was Garrett’s stupid fault.

I’m okay, I’m okay.  It was my fault.  I should have controlled myself.  I’m okay.  Don’t worry.

That’s what he would have said.  He would have tried to make everything better.  And it would have worked.  We would have forgotten all about it and laughed and talked and shared secrets.  Just like always.  But he wasn’t there.

Garrett had been at it again, taking people’s seats and annoying everyone.  This time he took my seat, even though no one else but Max even sat at our table.  I sat across from Garret, so I was still next to Max, and the two of us would have ignored Garrett.

He isn’t even there.

But Max had other thoughts.

“Excuse me,” he said, not looking up from his tray, “but that’s where my friend usually sits.”

Garrett looked at him with a smirk.  “So?” he almost-snarled.  “You gonna do somethin’ about it?”

Max took a deep breath.  “I was going to ask you to move.”  He cleared his throat.  “Now.”

Garrett decided that he didn’t really want to move anywhere for anyone.

I replayed the scene in my head as I got off the bus, walking towards my house.  People had been jerks before, but this was the first time I had seen a real fight break out.  Well, more of a one-sided fight.  Max didn’t really have much time to damage Garrett’s face before a teacher stepped in.

Stupid.  Stupid.  Stupid.  But sweet.

I tried to open the door, but of course, it was locked.  I rang the doorbell and waited for a long time, but nobody came.  I looked behind me.  No cars in the driveway.  There was nobody else home.

I was all alone.

I pulled out my student ID card and tried to jimmy the door open like I had seen a girl do on the Internet.  Unfortunately, no luck.  And now my ID was all chewed up.


I walked over to the window and looked through.  There wasn’t much to see.  Harold barked at me, and I got a ridiculous idea that Max would have appreciated.

“Harold!” I shouted.  “Open the window!”  I banged on the glass, but he just scampered off into the kitchen.  So much for man’s best friend.

If I really have to get in, I can always break the window. But that’s just a last resort.

I gulped, hoping it wouldn’t come to that.

I walked around the back of the house.  More windows, none of which could be opened from the outside.  I did a full circle around the house—two full circles.  But nothing came to me.  By then it was nearly four o’clock.  My legs were tired, my feet hurt, and I was soaking wet from the rain.  I was angry.  Exhausted.  Frustrated.

Oh, Mom, I guess I’m gonna get kidnapped and raped now!  It’s always “Go straight to the front door when you get off the bus so nobody grabs you!”  Well, if you’re so worried about me, where are you now, huh?  Where the hell are you now!?

I need to text mom.

I sent a message to my mom and no reply.  After a few minutes, I called my grandmother and asked if she knew where mom was.  She hadn’t heard anything and I set off Grandma’s crazy button.  “Oh my god, she’s dead.”  She said she would try to call or text Mom and see if she could reach her.  “Don’t move,” she said.

Where would I go??

I stomped my feet, I kicked the dirt, I cursed loud enough for the whole world to hear me.  And then I lay down in the grass, defeated.  I looked longingly through the window into my room.  Harold looked back at me, head cocked to the side, as if to ask, “Hey, why aren’t you in here giving me food?”

And I burst into insane laughter.  I was sitting outside, covered in mud, while a dog sat in my bed and stared at me.  And then I thought: dogs are outside all the time, and they never had any trouble getting back in.  They go through the dog door!

The freaking dog door.

I jumped over the railing of the porch steps leading up to the back patio, almost gleeful at my realization.

I am a toothpick!  Like all the kids said for years.  Of course I will fit through the dog door!

I lifted the flap and stuck my arms in, then pulled the rest of my body through.

I am a genius.

After my little happy dance, I breathed the warm inside air.  My smile began to fade, and I was pulled back into reality.

I’m all alone.

I flopped onto the couch, barely holding back tears.  Harold was licking them off as they fell.

I wish my dad was here. I wish I could sit and cry on his shoulder and talk to him and he would make everything better.  Just like before.  Before.  Our heartbeats. Together.

My phone chimed inside my pocket.

A happy-sounding anime pet told me I had a new text from Mom.  I checked my messages, hoping for comfort.

SO SORRY!  ON MY WAY!  Wreck on highway.  Just got Gma’s txt after I read urs.  Be there soon!  XOXO

I texted her back.

Grandma’s not here.  I’m all alone.  Rough day.  Will you be here soon?

A few seconds later, there was another chime.

I will.  Soon.  Real soon. 10 mins?

Not soon enough.

Dog with a Blog

So. I had a tiny come-to-Jesus moment the other night. I proverbially, threw my hands up in the air and said these words, “I just want to write, I have to write. And I don’t care any more if anyone reads my stuff or even likes it.”

You see. I’ve been worried, for a very long time, that my work is not work unless it has a price tag dangling from the corner. One or more of my graphic design teachers (when I went to a 2-year community college for art less than 10 years ago) told me never to do any work for free. Which is funny, because every other entry-level graphic design position in KC seems to be an internship. Unpaid. Ha!

So I decided to harness my art skills, writing skills and any other skills I had by writing a book. I had big dreams of book signings and elbow rubbings. And everything started to make sense. I thought I had found my calling (132nd calling, to be exact, but who’s counting? Stop counting!). But writing books takes years and I can’t seem to get past short-story status.

When book writing didn’t pan out, I figured blogging was where I might find my stride. Short, little bursts of wisdom and creativity with creative media on every post. Perfect! I was made for that. My skills line up with that like 2nd graders going to extra recess. But everyone has a blog. I even know a dog with a blog. And several babies. Pretty sure.

So. Being creative sucks. It’s hard to find an outlet. One that pays anyway. And you’re competing with a bunch of talented and untalented creatives, alike. Ones that have gone to school for journalism, English majors, natural-born Hemingways or Picassos. And the other heaps of craft and Christian blogs that fill the ocean of online literature. How can I ever hope to keep my head above the waves in a sea of blogs?

But in my come-to-Jesus moment, with tears, I realized. Who are you doing this for?

Through some pretty painful thoughts, my epiphany rose. Your writing is the voice you always wanted. And you just want to be heard because you felt like you never were. Same with acting, art, anything. Your hands and mouth and mind won’t stop, even if you tried. They’ve had their freedom. You were the 4th child of a crazy family who wasn’t big on sharing, feelings or truth. Your voice was lost on that sea of insanity. You don’t want to be ignored. You have something to say.

But, it has to be more than that. Because everyone has that story. What God is leading me to is this.

GOD: If I gave you a voice, it was to use for me. Not to heal your broken heart. Not to sermonize. Not to exorcise your demons. Not to psychoanalyze your issues. But to work for me. And I have taken care of you. I will continue to do that. You show my power in your weakness. Stop worrying about money. I will not let your voice drown. Like the boat that I was in and kept tall on the waves that I stilled, I will raise your voice for those that need to hear it.

After having my moment, I received an email the very next day. It might have been spam, but God can even use spam I think. Here’s what it read:

Hi There,
I came across your artwork and absolutely love it. 🙂

Probably spam. But it was an offer for artists to send in their designs and earn a percentage on what they sell. They probably saw my art because I started working on to sell my art on t-shirts and bags. This email featured a site that was very similar to customizedgirl, just an upscale version of the same concept. And they claim to be socially conscious. Of course they do.

But whatever. It was simply a reminder. Keep doing what you love. It doesn’t matter where your art goes. It goes.

And. I saw a blogger post a blog post (one they had not written) on Facebook, liked by another blogger. The blog post was about an amateur blogger asking advice from a successful blogger. That’s like 4-blogger deep. Not kidding. “That’s like Inception in the blog-o-sphere.” (joke credit: Guy C. Maggio)

Great article. It opened my eyes. Her advice was stop worrying about your writing. Just let it speak for itself. I saw this after my meltdown. I mean, moment of clarity. Ha! It was a confirmation of what I already decided. God was showing me that. Affirming that. Assuring me.

Every time I have reached a meltdown-able moment in my life about anything. Love, work, school, parenting. I have to reach a point of clarity from exhaustion. I’m fairly hard-headed and I love beating that big, hard head against the wall. I usually try to force my agenda/dreams/choices through some narrow, attractive door of opportunity. Until I see for myself, it just won’t go. Then I can let go and walk away because I have no pushback left.

And then I usually walk by an open window. Usually. 🙂

Present Tense (Excerpt 1)

I am four years old.  They are fighting.  I don’t remember the words now, but they are yelling.  Fuzzy scenes, like cloudy dreams, blurring in and out of focus.  Down in the basement, in the laundry room, I hear hot voices and cold words.  I peek around the corner.  He pushes her down on the concrete floor.  She’s weak, flailing, grabbing with desperate hands.  She can’t resist.  She scrambles up when she sees that I’m there.  She stutters a lie through tears, “I’m okay.”  She says it certainly.  Forcefully almost.  But I see the truth in her eyes.  She’s scared and we both think she’s going to die.

My mother has long, dark hair.  She would look like a Native American mother warrior with her tan, lined face and downward-turned eyes/mouth except for her bangs.  She won’t wear her hair without bangs.  She fell out of a moving car when she was just five years old.

Her forehead is scarred from the accident.  It is a terrible mark.  It’s dull purple with blue and yellow streaks, permanently bruised somehow.  It has deep white ridges where the flesh comes together to hold back brains, blood and skull.  It looks as if the bone just under the skin is broken and could spill its contents from the slightest pressure.

I touch it as if it could bite me.  It is tough though, surprisingly and sufficiently.  It’s troubling, remarkable and totally unbelievable that someone could have such a scar and be walking around performing everyday tasks.

I’m staring up at her from the front seat of the car.  She’s seatbeltless.  Hair full of wind and eyes on the road.  Her fingers are wrapped around the thin metallic wheel.  Her forehead is rough, but her cheeks are feathery and thin, soft under my tiny hand.  When I trace her lips, she playfully snarls, bares her teeth and chomps at my fingers.  She has beautiful, somber eyes, full of pain and pensiveness.  She doesn’t often have a smile, but when she does, you know it’s for you and you know it’s for real.

She is five years old.  She is riding quietly in the backseat of the sedan.  She falls asleep.  Her hand, arm or knee gently releases the door latch.  Within a breath, she is inches from the road, ground rushing under her.  My grandmother, from the front seat, is holding her hand or arm so she won’t fall.  My grandfather is braking.  My mother will be crushed by the turning back tire unless Grandma lets go.

Grandma lets go.

Li’l Lil is taken to the hospital and that sickening cut at the top of her sadly-sweet baby face is her rippling flag of salvation.  Her never-ending experiment of bangs begins.  On some level, consciously or not, this must make her feel like a little girl for the rest of her life.  A scared, torn-up little girl who hides her secrets behind those bangs.  I know how she feels.

Dear Reader,

This is an excerpt from my book Present Tense.  It’s a very short, vignette-style memoir. Quick read with lots of imagery.  You can find the rest of my book Present Tense at  Here’s the link  You can read for free with Kindle Unlimited.

Thanks for reading!

Martha Maggio