Time for Christ: Carol in my heart

Carola folksong with religious meaning usually sung at Christmas, a familiar tune to welcome and celebrate the spirit of Christmastime


My friend Carol. She’s a wonderful lady. I met her several years ago, before 2012, at Shoal Creek Community Church, back in Missouri. Carol is soft in voice and features, hard to know. Blonde. Statuesque. She could be a secret, delicate ballerina that only dances for God. Full of passion. A deep river of heart and love, running fast, yet soundless. And at the bottom of all, a Christ-centered human. She is generous of spirit, kind and, in a way, mysterious. If she were a song (carol)–Silent Night. Awe-filled, yet restrained and humble. I admire her quiet dignity, beauty, strength and grace.

After I mentioned (several times online, sorry!) about my upcoming trip to Israel, I recently discovered that Carol volunteers at Habitat for Humanity and I couldn’t wait to interview her about her service. Thank you, Carol, for answering my questions with such thoughtful responses! Thank you for sharing your heart and being comfortable enough to do that! You’re a good writer, Lady!


What is the name of the organization that you volunteer with?

Habitat for Humanity RV Care-a-Vanners

What is their mission?

It supports Habitat for Humanity’s vision of a world where everyone has a decent place to live.

How long have you been serving with this group?

3 years

Where did you go this summer on your mission?

Brookings, SD

What did you do on this mission?

It’s usually a two-week period of helping to build a house. We do whatever we are capable of doing, at whatever stage of building they are when we arrive. We have started from slab, framing walls and have gotten there at the stage of putting on siding, putting in windows and painting.

How do you feel you’ve grown as a Christian or person after this trip?

As a person, I’ve learned skills I never thought I would ever know. People are willing to teach. All you have to do is ask. Also, I’ve become more aware and accepting of other cultures and religions. Habitat for Humanity is a Christian organization, but they don’t discriminate on the basis of religion, age, gender or lifestyle. Morning devotionals are a regular part of every site build. It helps us keep our minds focused on why we do what we do. It doesn’t have to be a prayer. It can be a story or poem or quotes to inspire. We do usually close with a prayer and then hold hands and speak the Habitat motto:

“Habitat’s not a hand out but a hand UP!”

I now feel more comfortable sharing about my faith than I used to, so I feel I’ve grown some in that regard.

Why do you serve?

We like it because we love to travel, camp, meet new people and share God’s love by giving to those who are less fortunate. It’s a way we can do all of that and also work on keeping ourselves somewhat fit in our retirement. We love the camaraderie and being part of a group of like-minded individuals coming together to work towards a goal for the betterment of a family’s life. The thankfulness of the family shines through to return God’s love back to us.

Additional details:

Once you join the group you can go online to sign up. There is a schedule of locations and dates and number of spots available. Usually it’s free or reduced cost camping for the two-week period of the build.


Thank you, Carol! For your service to H for H! And for donating to my trip. I truly value our friendship, even if we can’t sip coffee together. Wouldn’t that be great?! If you’re ever in SW Florida, please do stay a while and we’d love to entertain you. I hope to serve one day with you and Steve! That would be so fun. H for H is a wonderful organization and it’s so inspiring to see our former president, Mr. Carter, still such an active participant. The organization and people like you give families dignity and hope. I admire you and your husband. You’re good, good folks with big hearts! ❤

Prayers for you and your family!

I get to do some Carol-ing of my own soon in Israel. 😀

Habitat for Humanity has many opportunities for those who own an RV or anyone who just wants to help, even locally. The have ReStore (local donation centers, maybe even in your town or nearby) and countless ways to serve. H for H is a nationwide organization that focuses on providing housing for all, no matter who they are or what they believe.

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Good Advice

Some of the best advice I ever heard was indirectly. That’s the best kind. Simply an illustration, manifestation, of good sense. Or proverbial wisdom. Sharing an overlooked or misunderstood or obscure nugget without harsh or pointed intent.

It came through our friends, Richard and Tracy Potter. Haven’t seen or talked to them in quite a while. I hope Richard sees this and nods.

Their child had a tough choice. A good, tough choice. Go to a local prestigious university or halfway across state? The child was bright, talented and earned her way to either school. The differences in benefits of each school were minute. It was pretty much an equal choice aside from distance. So they asked this incredibly bright child, with no other information to weigh, “Which choice will make you more dependent on God?”

Woah.

I didn’t even think to ask that. My question would have been, “Which one’s easier?” My question for my daughter? No question. You’re living with Mommie until you’re 37. LOL

But this is the question, the one they asked of their girl, we should be asking of our children, of our spouses, our family, ourselves. What choice is going to make me focus on God the most?

I have to say, I feel somewhat guilty, leaving on a missions trip. I’m going to help others, but those motherly/wifey twinges of paranoia-guilt tug at my emotional heart. Will they survive without me? Will things, bodies, hearts be the same when I come back in two weeks? Will they feel forsaken?

But when I ask the Potters’ question, “What will make us depend most on God?” Going to Israel will bring all of us to the foot of the cross. Lilli will have to pray more. Guy will have to ask for help. They will have to seek each other for comfort and necessity. I will be completely alone emotionally and have to turn to God through all of it. That’s a good place to be.

I’m sure our family does much codepending all too often. We can’t help it. We like each other.

So I guess going is okay. I don’t have to feel guilty. I just have to trust God. And talk to him. Lift my family up to him. Make room to grow.


Good news! I’m going! I reached my immediate goal of $500 and then some. Thanks to all who helped. Now I will tackle those big Venetian fish and ask local churches if they have any discretionary mission funds. Pray, if you’re the praying kind. 😉 Or give if you can.

This World Is Not My Home

This World Is Not My Home (Statler Bros version!)
gospel song by Jim Reeves

This world is not my home
I’m just a-passin’ through
My treasures are laid up
Somewhere beyond the blue

The angels beckon me
From heaven’s open door
And I can’t feel at home
In this world any more


This was a song at my dad’s funeral. A friend played it on guitar live at the funeral home. I still love it. At the time it meant, my dad’s journey was over and he gets to go home. That was hope. It means something different now though. But still hope.

I don’t feel at home in this world. I have taken the red pill and I’m awake. I’ve been flushed out of my Matrix pod and I want to go back. Except. I can’t. After having been convinced of the need I see around the world, I can’t sit at home any more. I have to serve in some way. I can’t complain about injustice, I have to change it.

I give to the needy. Except I don’t tell you every time I do because you’re not supposed to, right? I buy or try to buy homeless guys tacos. I donate my very expensive bike to charity so that they can fix it up and sell it to benefit homeless vets. I give where I can. I give to local theaters. I volunteer my time at the local community theatre when they need hands. I am kind to children, small animals and jerks. I take care of neighbor dogs when the family goes to Disney World or to the opera (yes, I said the opera, I can’t pick neighbors’ activities). I remind myself to be patient when I’m stuck behind Grandpa Trumpsticker. I treat old people with dignity and kindness and slow down to remember their gifts. I open my eyes to those around me.

I walked into an assisted living facility one day to collect labs. I was walking down a long narrow, winding passageway and I heard the most beautiful piano music waving through the hall. I couldn’t tell if it was a fancy player piano in the lobby or an actual pianist. As I saw the piano and the old woman sitting at it, I was filled with emotion.

As I passed her, I said, “That is beautiful. Thank you.” And her face was shining from droopy lobe to droopy lobe. What I wanted to say, but didn’t, was, “I hear you. You’re beautiful. Thank you. Keep going!”

I had a job to do. I couldn’t stop and talk with her. But I wanted to.

I see you, Grandma. I see you. I long for the day that I can sit and watch you. Listen to you. Love you. Wait on you.

I have to love others. I have to provide for need when I see it. I have to reach out for poor people, dirty people, hard-to-love people who are entitled and snippy. I have to call out beauty when I see it. I have to love my enemies because if I can’t do that, God can have no part of me. I can have no part of him. I must live by grace.

Jesus loves us. Even when we don’t deserve it. Because we never deserve it. We mess up all the time and constantly need forgiveness. He has told us to go and love the people of the world and help where we can. To show his spirit.

“The angels beckon me from heaven’s open door.” But they are beckoning me to help now. Here. In this place. On this earth. To love the hardest to love.

That’s why I’m going to Israel. I am convinced of the need. I hope you will be, too.

GAiN for Martha Maggio


Many people of different ethnicity and faiths will benefit by the support provided. I am serving at a wheelchair and eyeglass clinic in several different ways. Please consider giving.

Crazy White Lady

I am a middle-aged white woman who has every advantage a person could have. I was born in America. I’m white. I’ve never hungered a day in my life. In fact, I was super morbidly obese for 10 years of my life. Just morbidly obese for the other 35.

I’ve never been so poor that I couldn’t buy food. Only one day did I wonder about dinner. No food. No paycheck. And the long weekend to make it to money. And even at that low point, my husband went to our local food pantry and got enough to fix dinner for a few days. A friendly, benevolent nun gave us pasta and sauce. Humiliating as that was, we ate dinner with our school-age daughter. And we were so very thankful. We were full on grace.

I’ve been struggling this week. Last Friday, I was accepted for a mission trip to Israel. I rejoiced at being chosen, but immediately became worried after the joy subsided. I would have to raise the money for my trip.

I’ve never been good about asking others for money. I struggled with paying my medical bills, but hesitated in asking others outside of my family for help. So crowdfunding made me squeamish, but missions are something that I’ve wanted to do since I was 16. Go to another part of the world and help those in need.

I know you might say, “Martha, we have need in this country.” And I would say yes. But we also have overweight poor people. The need in this country is real. But even our poor people live better than most in other parts of the world. Even our poor people are among the 1 percent. THAT’s the truth. Being poor in America doesn’t automatically mean death. Being poor in other countries can mean starvation. Being poor can mean a violent or untimely death.

I need to raise ~$3500. The supplies for this trip are already provided for, but I need to get myself there, to help. But first, by Monday, I need to raise $500 to reserve my spot. GAiN is supporting me and encouraging me to keep trying, they want and need me there. I can serve in so many ways on this trip. But I need that $500 to reserve my travel. If I don’t have it, this journey ends here.

At 4:10 am, Tuesday morning, just this past week, I woke up in a NyQuil/Benadryl-induced fog because I’ve been very sick. Trying to write, work and raise money for a trip has been tricky. At 4:10 am, I didn’t want to be awake, but my eyes popped open. And a realization washed over me. It was God’s voice because there’s no way that I would have this thought.

God, carefully pulling me close, grasping my attention and pajama collars, whispered softly into my stinging eyes, “Martha. You’ve been worried. Terrified. About money. You don’t know how you will provide for this trip halfway around the world. You’re scared. You feel alone. You feel forgotten. Forsaken. You’ve only experienced that for a few days. NOW, my dear child, you have some small understanding of what these people I want you to care about face every single day of their lives.”

And I fell back into my dreamy, warm covers. Broken and blown away.

I can’t tell you why this crazy white lady wants to go to the Holy Land. I can’t justify it. Other than to say, I’m following God’s heart. And that plane is going with or without me.

If this trip dies here, it dies here. I don’t want it to though.

God, if you want it to happen, you will provide. I know that. Thank you for opening my tired, sick American eyes, at the very least. I’m going to run after you, every chance I get.


Please consider giving. GAiN for Martha Maggio. There’s more info about my trip and who we’ll be serving. If every one of my followers gave even $1, I could meet my immediate goal. Thanks!

The Kindness of Karen

Karen. Aunt Karen. She’s not even my aunt by blood, but I think of her as family. I’ve only known her for just over a year. She’s one of the nicest women I’ve ever met. Gentle, kind, a manifestation of the Holy Spirit for sure. She was my husband’s saving grace when he was a child.

My husband grew up in a strange home. Don’t we all.

He lost his parents when he was very young. His mother died when he was still an infant and his father died when he was a toddler, too young to even form a memory of his face. He was orphaned.

He was raised by his paternal grandparents. His Uncle Guy and Aunt Karen were there for those formative years as well, living just next door.

I’ve known Karen for years, without the benefit of meeting her in person, because my husband described her so vividly. Blonde-haired, blue-eyed angel of mercy in a chaotic world. A calming influence on an energetic boy. He would tell me about her rubbing his back for naptime. (He still likes to have his back rubbed. Who doesn’t?) He was certainly enamored with his Aunt Karen.

He talked about how Aunt Karen could show discipline, not humiliation, in behavior correction. His grandmother and uncle often resorted to yelling and intimidation. But Karen. She was different.

Karen was the mother he needed. Tender. Patient. Feminine. She was the female ideal. The compassion he required as an extremely sensitive child. A soft place to land.

I finally met Karen just over a year ago. She was so warm and welcoming. Immediate hugs and she accepted me totally from the first moment. She was every bit of the angel Guy recalled to me. Karen has a generous spirit. She always asks questions and she lavished our daughter with so much attention.

She lives in Colorado, so we don’t get to see her much, but we have Facebook (thank God) and she’s so supportive of my blog. Thank you, Karen!

Aunt Karen just made the first donation for my trip. An extremely generous one. Thank you for believing in me and this journey.

I truly appreciate your kindness, generosity and the immediate acceptance as a member of your family. I’m just sorry we hadn’t met until just over a year ago. You’re a beautiful person. Inside and out. You changed my husband’s life and offered him grace when he absolutely needed it. You saved him from a harsh life just by being kind and showing him nice people exist. Thank you for my husband. Thank you for the kindness you showed him. Thank you for being a mother to him, even if for a short time. It stayed with him all through the years. You ARE an angel. I know he thinks that, too. xoxo

Mission From God

Blues Brothers: On a Mission From God

I have just been accepted to go on a mission. I am going to the Holy Land in January. Because it’s an area with delicate political issues and potential risks, I have been asked to only say the very general region. I can tell you the people we’ll be serving are in need.

We will be serving at wheelchair and vision clinics. Please click on the link below if you want to know more or can donate:

Help me go on my MISSION!

Here are the tiers at which you can donate:


1-Shout out! I will tag you on Facebook or WordPress and thank you personally for any donation of $5 or less.

2-Reblog! I will reblog your favorite or most recent post on my site! Or, if you don’t write at WordPress, I’ll post your favorite article or excerpt. I’ll even write a personal introduction and tag your blog for my 400+ followers for any donation of $10.

3-Reading materials! Signed manuscript of any of my online Amazon publications (Present Tense, Updo, House Full of Hope), your choice, with a personal note of thanks, plus all of the previous rewards for any donation of $25.

4-Double reading materials! 2 signed manuscripts, your choice, personal note of thanks, plus the first two rewards for any donation of $50.

5-Pictures! Full color bound picture album of my mission (from Shutterfly), plus the previous rewards (1, 2 and 4) for any donation of $100 or more!

Thank you in advance for just reading about my trip and learning more about GAiN!

You may ask yourself, “Why, Martha, are you going halfway around the world, burning jet fuel, to aid others in a difficult country? Why not help at home?”

Good question.

This has been something I’ve been taught my whole life. Support missions, go out and teach the world about Jesus, go on missions, spread the Word. And I used to assume what that meant–convert the world to Christianity.

I’ve come to understand it’s more complex than that. What the Bible shares, what the Bible teaches Christians, is slightly more nuanced than just “make others submit.”

If we teach? How do we teach? By showing.

If we love? How do we love? By acting.

We don’t win hearts by conquering, punishing, extorting. We show God’s love through acceptance, kindness, tolerance. By example. We do what Christ did. We heal. We live small. We show humility. We are meek. We take care of our speech and actions. Mainly because–if we act nice, if we act lovely, won’t others want to be the same and be close and find out more? Won’t they want to know why we act this way? Won’t they want to know Christ in the same way? They cannot deny Christ if they see him in us. Even if not, then we have still served as we are commanded.

We serve. We serve the least of these to show that we live what we believe. We show Christ by doing the things he did. By loving the people he loved. By going where he went. By washing the feet of the least deserving to be washed. Because who on Earth deserves to be cleansed?

I will admit, I want to see the places where Christ walked. But I also want to serve where he served. Die to myself where he died. Continue in service in His Spirit as we are asked to do. I want to touch those walls and earth and stones that he touched. But I also want to touch the souls of those he reached for.

When people look at me, I want them to see Christ and his love. His smile. His care. His heart.

That’s why I’m going. Plus. That plane is going, with or without me. Why not be on it? Time to do good in the world.

This is not a luxury vacation and people go to the Riviera every day. This will be work. Hard work, long days and a risky environment. But God has rebuilt this temple of mine. I’m ready to put it to use.

I’ve thought about crowdfunding before. Especially when I faced my very expensive medical debt, but I paid most of my surgeries through savings or one bill at a time. It was tough. I spent thousands of dollars, but I made it through without crowdfunding. Most Americans can’t do that with rising healthcare costs.

I will need your help to make this goal. That’s tough for me. To ask for help. But this is exactly what Christ has called us to do. Help each other. Please help me help those in need! If you can. I will go in your place even if you only have $1 to give. If you have nothing, that’s ok! I totally get it.

Thanks for any help. Truly. I need to raise at least $500 in the next ten days to go (to reserve my spot), but the total goal will be ~$3500!

GAiN for Martha Maggio

 

Won’t You Be My…Father?

Did I not mention that I’ve seen Won’t You Be My Neighbor? Gah! I saw it last Tuesday.

I read or someone mentioned that they cried when the trolley hit the tracks. Well, I cried during the open sequence. When I heard Mr. Rogers friendly voice sing out the theme song, I died.

I love this movie. I was so very moved by the story. Mr. Rogers was an ordained Presbyterian minister. He lived every bit of a Christian life and touched so many lives doing so. He was allowed to follow his heart, passion and creativity. His son described him as the second Christ. LOL Hard living with Jesus for a father. LOL

What a wonderful man Mr. Rogers was. I wish he was my father. Or that my father could have been like him. Or just to be his friend and neighbor would have been enough. I was always calmed and enthralled by the show Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood. I love that our world allowed a show like this to exist, even for a short time.

There is goodness in the world. Mr. Rogers was proof.


“When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, “Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.”–Fred Rogers

I swear I’m not crazy.

I’ve been reading the Bible this week, along with following the news, and a few things popped out at me. Almost.

First, a stone popped out of the Western Wall. Also, the stone was large enough to be described as a boulder by one article. The wall has stood for 2,000 years. Built around the time of Christ’s birth. Nearly finished by 4 BCE, fyi.

So, honestly, I had to look up the significance of the wall. I knew, generally, it was an important site and that many religions hold it as a holy place, but I didn’t really know the precise geographical layout or the turmoil over this spot.

It’s the closest you can get to the old Jewish temple. So Jews and Christians have come to this holy spot for centuries. They pray at the wall. They write down their prayers and insert the paper into the crevices, between the stones.

So. At the base of the wall, would have been the foundation of the old Jewish temple. But now the courtyard of the old temple has been filled in with rock, dirt and time. Muslims have built their temple on top of everything. It’s a very holy site. Everyone wants it. So I would say that probably no one can dig on this site to search for the old temple or anything inside it. Some people think the Ark of the Covenant is still housed in the Holy of Holies (inner sanctuary). Not sure since Rome rained hell down on the Jews in 70 CE and destroyed the temple for a second time. Wouldn’t they take the Ark? Or destroy it? If they could? Super valuable religious iconography and they are going to leave it? Don’t know. I don’t think so.

So anyway. Jews can’t go to the old temple, but they can get as close to it as possible by worshipping and praying at the Western Wall. This is where they can worship and pray without offending anyone or being arrested.


And I know what you might be thinking, “Hey! Maybe quit putting paper in between the stones and they won’t pop out!” But it was much higher than where people can reach. And no. No one can kick it out from the other side. There is no other side. It’s buried under rock and dirt. It. Just. Popped. Out.


So. A stone popped out. Weird. Damaged the wooden deck, broke the stairs. Just a day before, it would have crushed someone or several someones. Why? Tisha B’av.

Second weird thing. Tisha B’av. Did you know that the 1st Jewish temple and the 2nd Jewish temple were destroyed on the same day? I never knew that. That seems like more than coincidence. Right? In fact, 5(+) really bad things happened to the Jews on that same day throughout history. In fact, in 1942, the same day was a mass exportation of Jews from the Warsaw Ghetto to an extermination camp.

This shit blows my mind.

So, just hours after Tisha B’av, where people observing Tisha B’av would have been praying, a stone pops out (the remnants of the old temple falling/being destroyed)? Of the Western Wall? And observers would have been crushed.

All around the same time, within hours, Israel shoots down a Syrian jet with a US Patriot missile.

Hm.

Guess what?

This weekend is the longest 21st century lunar eclipse that turns the moon blood red and one of the best places to see it is the Middle East. Gah! Holy of frackin’ holies.


I’m not crazy. I just had to share these strange happenings. I don’t think it’s the end of the world. But I might have a popcorn movie blow out this weekend. Just in case.

Born in the USA

I used to think it was a blessing to live in America. That I was one of the luckiest citizens of the planet to be born in such a country. An almost pre-ordained, God-given birthright. That I was blessed. That our nation was blessed. But I am a product of this environment. What else would I believe? Almost a century of “work hard, buy a house, use credit.” But it doesn’t work for everyone.

And what does that get you? America has become the abhorrent opposite of Christianity. Christianity is about sharing, loving, caring for the least, the poor, the fatherless, the widows. America is about securing your own property and power. And the difference between poor and rich is growing out of control.

I don’t know what it’s like to be anywhere else. Rugged individualism is only a value if you are raised in such a world. I was shown the commercial for America. I believed it. “Shut up and take my money.” I believed it was the best because that’s what we tell the world. The ideal is to live here. Immigrants pouring across the border for safety and wealth.

I don’t want to trade places, but I don’t mind sharing. I need healthcare, clean water, access to schools and freedom to move. Protection for my child. So do they.

If we can’t evolve as a society/country to accommodate those in need, then we have no business to point to our manifest destiny. We have become corrupt and require modification. Our entire country was formed on the crushing of Native Americans. There is still sentiment in this country, of those in power, that we can take what we want, benefit ourselves in the present, with no concern for the future. That should change.

We need to move/evolve from deregulated capitalism to something towards socialism. Not socialism, but at least universal healthcare. Life, liberty, pursuit of happiness. First one is life.

I wish I knew what to do. I’m paying attention. I’m watching the money. I’m voting. I’m participating. It’s not clear that the Dems will do any better. God help us.

I love America. Mostly the people in it. But I am growing more and more discouraged by the few in power who abuse the poor.

Born in the USA

This is America


Also. When do we drop the American dream and start living as God intended? Without borders. Without walls. Loving and caring for the world. God doesn’t care if we are safe, air-conditioned and pampered. He doesn’t care how big our house is or what we have in the cupboards if any of his people are starving. He has asked us to move into an uncomfortable place. I am still content to be comfortable. When does that change? What’s the breaking point? To move from comfort with one’s life to fighting for change for others? He’s waiting for us to be the hands and feet of his body. That’s our earthly purpose. When do we embrace that?

I can’t let my family down. Run off to South America, risk life and limb, risk my daughter’s life. My husband and daughter are counting on me. What are the little things I can do for the least of these?

Tell Me About My Chris

My friend, Chris Churchill, filmed a documentary about his mom. It’s about his whole family, really, Tell Me About My Mother.

It’s compelling. Hard to watch in places. Private. Heartbreaking. Bare-to-the-bones revealing. Honest. Touching.

This documentary challenges my idea of what a doc should be. And that’s okay! Chris is seen, on camera, part of the story, asking questions. But, because of the subject matter, because of his inclusion in the events, because of his expertise in these realms, his participation is certainly needed and wanted.

The film is edited well and contains original music. Those elements of pictures, interviews, soundtrack and special effects all contribute to one’s understanding of Chris’ heart and mind during/after such a chaotic time.

Chris’ mother is a funny, charming, sweet, old lady. Like anyone’s mom. But we hear early evidence to contradict that initial image. Having had a parent with mental illness, I feel compassion and empathy for Mother and Chris from the first moments of the film.

It’s 3:33 am. I woke up with so many questions, Chris.

Q: It seems almost impossible that your mother would leave her small town for Chicago. She left to attend Salvation Army training. Both of your parents were officers in the Salvation Army, at one time. In the movie, we see an inattention from SA to help the very families serving them, much like the US military branches. Did that lack of sympathy from SA disturb your spiritual life? Did you struggle with Christianity and God? Where are you spiritually?

A: When I was young, I was extremely religious. At first, I was extremely and specifically into the Salvation Army because it was all I knew. But also, because it was…connecting with my parents in a way I knew they’d be constant. As I got older, I began to notice and question the less loving and accepting parts of the Bible and, in particular, our church’s interpretation of it. I wanted to love everyone as they were, but it seemed like the God I was being taught about wasn’t like that. I was also lucky enough to be able to see that what people said God was didn’t seem to match up with what they all said God did or felt. So I began that lifelong search for a spiritual truth that works for me and isn’t reliant on what authority figures insist I believe. To be fair, the Salvation Army has evolved on a lot of issues over the years, too. But I can’t see myself ever returning to…any church services regularly. I know what it’s there for and I don’t need or want that. No disrespect to those who go and are satisfied with their experience and who actively love all of humanity. I also understand that getting wrapped up in the minutiae of any religion diminishes the overriding point of it all. And if the point isn’t as simple as love thy neighbor as thyself, then it’s missing the point. All that came from being immersed in a faith that had the tendency to overlook the primary importance of love over laws. To quote The Thompson Twins, “Love IS the law”. That’s where I am now. Love is the point. Everyone is equally important, even the people who are your purported enemies. I believe in God as the fabric of the universe that connects us all. The information I was raised with that makes the most sense to me involves compassion and mercy and love. I believe God, that thing that creates, heals, teaches and connects us all, is love. And love is both a noun and a verb. To be with God, you have to love. To love more and more deeply is to be more and more deeply with God. To love less is to be less with God.

Q: Your dad seems very unsympathetic at times. He is currently a minister. Do you feel that his lack of compassion toward your mother is a Christian ideal?

A: It’s interesting that you say that about him because I’ve heard people say the opposite as well. Some people see him as a man whose calling was to lead a flock in a church his whole life. He certainly sees that. He did the best he could for us but he was always split in his duties between us and the church. And, yeah, the church will always win. It seems “un-Christian” of him but my dad was also serious about serving others which is very “Christian” of him. You could look at it both ways and you’d be right both ways.

Q: Do you think he was having an affair?

A: I believe him when he says he wasn’t at the time that this movie covers. I’m not sure, however, if during the time they were separated, but before they were divorced, that he wasn’t in a relationship with my first stepmother. I know why you’d ask and why anyone would wonder. He’s still extremely flirty. But I’ll tell you, he’s been married to my second and final stepmother for 38 years. So, I’d say that generally, in terms of flirting, his bark was always far worse than his bite.

Q: Being Salvation Army officers, your parents made some strict choices, but also, some not-so-strict choices. Some very non-SA choices, I would venture to say. It seems demanding that your father would expect your mother to attend SA training and become an officer, but also sleep with her outside of marriage. Do you resent this seemingly arbitrary thinking?

A: I see the premarital sex as a mistake or a “sin” in the eyes of that church at that time, but I don’t really see it as a “sin” in general. My dad explained to me 25 years ago when I was living with the young lady who I would ultimately marry that he didn’t consider it a “sin” because the Bible never describes any specific ceremony that determines that you’re married. It’s in your heart. The decision to be committed to another person is a marriage. That’s why you should never judge anyone. The love and the “sin” all happen in people’s hearts and minds where we can’t see it.

Q: Or do you see it simply as two young people unable to reconcile their belief system with natural, biological urges?

A: I would agree with the latter, but it’s also none of my business.

Q: Do you think your father was too demanding of your mentally-ill mother?

A: I think, like most people who have never experienced a mental illness themselves, he didn’t have a good idea of what she was going through or why. He certainly only had the tools he was raised with to help. Those tools were based on a strict sense of duty to the church.

Q: Even if his upbringing was different, do you feel a more compassionate person would have left SA and not been resentful? I personally believe your father, as a man of God, had a responsibility to put his family first. Even above SA. Not above God, but SA. Because SA is just an institution, not God. Do you think if your father could have prioritized the family and helped your mother, things would have turned out differently?

A: It seems like it, at first glimpse, but here’s the real issue. My mother’s illness would have probably manifested to this extent even if he had been the world’s most attentive husband. Part of her illness was (and still is) the compulsion to push the ones they are closest to the edge. I think that’s part of the definition of a borderline personality disorder. I think. And I’m pretty sure that’s one of her issues.

Q: Do you feel that your home life represented a contradiction or the hypocrisy of the SA lifestyle/rules? It sounded like SA swept much under the rug, er–cross.

A: Kind of. But it’s not that Dad treated us poorly or that mom was choosing to hurt us. It was Dad doing what he thought was right and mom was doing the best she could in light of her condition.

Q: How does your dad reconcile the continued family crisis under his belief system? The film doesn’t really address his deep understanding of her mental illness. Does he understand from a spiritual standpoint?

A: He understands better now than he did then. He’s a good man. He just didn’t know how to make both halves of his world work together back then.

Q: I have much anxiety about your accident. Does it concern you or cause you anxiety to think about what could have been? It was a miracle that you weren’t more seriously or gravely injured. Do you resent your siblings or mother because of the accident? Or making you wear that horrible bandage at the dinner table? (LOL)

A: I don’t remember any of it. I have anxiety about a lot of other things, but that isn’t one of them. I never think of what could have been because my earliest memories…are of me with a big scar on my head. I hold only deep appreciation of the fact that they themselves cared enough about me to be traumatized at the thought of seeing me so severely injured or of losing me.

Q: Do you think you have trust issues with people as a result of your familial relationships?

A: Yep. I only recently started internalizing the feeling that people love me. Even those closest to me. I couldn’t take it in. Which means that even when you’re surrounded by people, you’re still lonely and you don’t understand why.

Q: Do you feel that your mother’s early childhood abuse played a part in her mental illness?

A: I think it might have played the biggest part (except maybe a physiologic tendency towards mental illness).

Q: Many members of your family seemed dissociated from that time. Understandably. Do you think they are aware of that?

A: Each of them are aware to varying extents. It’s hard to be aware of your own biases and weaknesses. I was probably the least aware, though. Which is why I’m the only one who’s been hospitalized for mental illness.

Q: In light of modern day approaches to psychotherapy, it’s sad to see that your mother was treated harshly in the mental healthcare arena. It’s horrific that she was subjected to ECT and a padded cell, but that seems typical treatment of those patients from that time. How frustrating is that for you?

A: She and I have talked extensively about it. I have had plenty of time to process it so it’s not frustrating to me. It’s just a reality. I suppose it would have been more frustrating if she were to spring it on me now for the first time. But then again, it’s so long ago—I don’t know.

Q: Do you feel that most of your family holds your mother responsible for the dissolution of the marriage? Or do they see it as a complex situation? Some family members seem to point the finger mainly at your mother. Am I just being defensive of Mom? You know them more intimately.

A: l certainly appreciate anyone being defensive of my mom. So thank you. But I think we all understand it to have been a complex situation. Of course we were all kids then and incapable of seeing it that way at the time.

Q: It took me years to come to terms with my father’s mental illness. To demystify and unmonstrify (is that a word? it is now!) him. Did you ever blame your mother for her inability to care for you or hold the family together? Or were you too young to remember?

A: I always knew she had problems. I was never mad at her, but I was frequently scared by her. Again, this movie only covers up to when I start to have memories. There’s a whole bunch of stuff I dealt with later and some when it was just me in the house with her. No dad or siblings around to help.

Q: As the youngest, I think I do the most question-asking and memory-sharing with my mother. Is that true for you? Why do you think you ask the most questions? Do other family members like to forget that time?

A: I ask the most because I understood the least. Everyone else saw these things take place when they were old enough to consciously deal with them. Much of my neglect and abuse happened when I was too young to have episodic memory or an ability to understand the meaning of what was going on. Which is why I became the one with the biggest psych problems. Primitive neglect is what they call what happened to me. So I try to find out why I feel how I do or panic or get depressed the way I do. It’s because of all the stuff I should have learned about feelings as a baby and young child but I didn’t.

Did you already receive an award for the film? (He has already received two!)

Silver Spotlight Award at Spotlight Documentary Film Awards and Exceptional Merit in Human Spirit at the Docs Without Borders Film Festival


You can purchase the DVD on Amazon. Find out more at IMDB as well. It is so personal, yet a comprehensive view of what it’s like to live with someone who is trapped in severe mental illness. It’s profound, cathartic and so informative. Thanks, Chris. For answering these questions and sharing your story. It’s important!