I looked through the tiny hole in the cardboard box and could see the crowd of parents smiling and laughing. I had been sitting in there for a few minutes in my costume, and it was beginning to get stuffy and warm. Somehow I had been convinced by my sweet and lovely Kindergarten teacher that I had the best role in the whole play since I also had the closest voice to a witchy cackle.
I was a wicked witch.
We were performing Hansel and Gretel, a story about two children who had a mean Stepmother who left them in the woods to die, but they found a cottage and took refuge. They didn’t know a wicked witch lived there.
Yes, I was the witch who ate children, how exciting!
After five minutes my big moment came, and I jumped out of the box and screamed,
“Come here my pretty, so I can eat you!”
The teacher finished narrating the rest of the play, and the crowd clapped and cheered at the end. Somehow I thought they were cheering for me but now that I am older and wiser…probably not.
I loved verbal praise when I was young, mostly due to middle-child-syndrome. I was squeezed between two pretty sisters, and it was common for people to ask me if I was a boy.
One particular year, I had really advanced in my skills and was now one of the best skaters in my figure skating group. Each year we had a production and were dressed in bedazzled costumes.
This year we were lizards and I was going to be the lead lizard. I cannot even explain how excited I was to have this shining moment in front of our little community of Wawa. Most of the town came out on one of the nights to watch the show.
I was going to wow them with my fantastic leadership and skating skills, and I would become a star! I dreamed about it for weeks when I laid my short, out of control, curly head on my pillow each night.
The big day arrived, and I could barely contain my giggling, wiggling body. Mom dressed us in our costumes, took pictures of her four kids and told us to go grab our skates. We all scurried to the basement and to my mortification, my skates were nowhere to be found!
I panicked and started crying as I ran up the stairs and told my mother my skates were gone. She searched throughout the basement…no skates.
Mom started calling all her friends to see if someone had an extra pair. Finally, she found a couple in my size and to my childhood excitement they were professional skates, not the flimsy vinyl ones I was used to wearing.
This was really going to propel my fame now!
We piled into our 1970’s station wagon and off to the rink we drove. Finally, it was our group’s turn, and I was at the front of the line behind the big curtain ready to lead my followers on the ice and on to stardom. The curtain opened, I stepped onto the ice, and everything I knew about skating disappeared.
I couldn’t get my skates to do anything.
I struggled as I slipped and slid and fell down multiple times. The group was behind me piling up together, whispering for me to, “Hurry up and get going.”
Soon, they whizzed passed me, and I was about twenty feet behind the group the whole performance, trying to catch up. Tears were streaming down my face as my humiliation grew with each stride. The team was finally done and had skated behind the curtain, and I was still on the ice by myself as the crowd watched my dismal performance.
I laid in bed that night with all my stardom sitting in pools of tears on my pillow. I never knew the mystery of the skates that disappeared. Maybe God allowed it to teach a little girl a valuable lesson in desiring fame.
Forty years later I became a published author when my book, Beauty from Ashes, was released. Instead of being excited, I sat at home for three days crying. I didn’t even leave the house. I listened to a voice that followed me around the house where ever I went whispering to me, “They’ll know what you did, your secret will be exposed!”
My friends, family, church and community were going to know who the truth about who I really was.
God had laid it on my heart to write my life story which included raising my oldest son Kyle who has severe autism. At one point in the book, I admitted to hurting my own helpless son. God had asked me to be honest, real and truthful.
I was waiting for the nasty phone calls, the accusations and tomato throwing. People had admired me for being Superwoman, the devoted mother who lovingly cared for her special needs child. Now they would know what I really had been;
I would now go from the leader of the pack to the little kid skating at the back with the sad, failing performance and slippery skates. I would live that humiliation all over again.
After a few weeks of knowing friends and family had read my book, I still hadn’t had anyone speak the truth to me:
“Cindy, how could you have hurt your own son, who was defenceless?”
Instead, I started getting messages and emails from people who sympathized with my husband Vance and I as they read our story and wondered how we survived a rocky marriage, a son thrown into violence due to autism, and four younger children who lived through it all.
I was touched by the kindness and forgiveness of other people. They were understanding, sympathetic and encouraging. I didn’t deserve their forgiveness and not a single tomato was thrown.
Last night I was at a Christmas dinner for my son, Devyn’s, workplace. He works at a daycare in our city. He took his mother as his date. Someone there teased me about being a local celebrity. I always feel humbled when people say that.
How can I be a local celebrity when they know what I did?
When I really give it some thought, I realized ‘I am a local celebrity,’ but not for writing a book. I am famous locally because I was loved and accepted by my community, church, family and friends after they heard of my terrible secret.
I was free.
The back of the pack wasn’t where I stayed. People picked me up, brushed me off and gave me the courage to take all my faults, mistakes and stories and write about them for other to learn how to recover after a great fall…I lead from my failures.
I was able to share my story with two local news stations and spoke locally at a few events. Afterwards, people came up to me and gave me hugs and encouragement. Parents came forward wanting to confess their own abuse towards their children and hung their heads in shame. I stood without judgement as I looked at their sad expressions and their brokenness. My heart filled with compassion as I reached out arms to embrace them and offer the love I had been given.
I had no clue my confession would bring healing to others. I wanted to keep my secret locked up forever in my shameful cell where I thought it belonged.
Today, I watched a video on Facebook that was in my news feeds. Two girls who looked to be in their early twenties were going to fight each other. The media set up a press conference ahead of time. The one girl was pretty with a shaved head and had been bullied in public school. The other girl, had long hair and was aggressive and started taunting her and verbally abusing her opponent. She was using tactics to try to scare her into believing she was going to take her down and squash in a moment, once the fight started.
The bully said to her “You’re weak. Once weak always weak!”
The girl with the shaved head was silent the whole time and calm. She just stared her opponent in the eye as she taunted her over and over. Before the fight began, the pretty girl’s coach took her aside and spoke words of encouragement to her and told her she had to believe in herself, she could do this. He believed in her!
She headed into her fight focused and ready. At the end of the match, the referee stood with both girls, and when the announcer read the winner’s name, the referee held up the pretty girl’s arm as the crowd cheered. They threw the massive metal belt for the winner over her shoulder and she smiled and started to cry.
I wondered if in the moment she was thinking of all the times she was bullied and how she overcame adversity. She was a winner despite her past.
So many times I have allowed the Devil to taunt me and tear me down to say to me;
Unworthy. Useless. Abuser. Weak. Unloved. Witch.
I would want to crawl into bed and hide under my covers and believe everything he said. Then my husband and children would say;
Wife. Mother. Caring. Kind. Beautiful. Forgiven. Loved.
It would give me the courage to get up, get focused and ready for the fight. My family and my friends helped me to go on to write, to encourage, to love others and to share my life story. One full of truth.
This is the gospel.
The grace and forgiveness people have offered me is just a tiny drop in a massive ocean of love and forgiveness Jesus Christ wants to give you.
When the Devil desires to make you feel unworthy: God wants you to feel loved, forgiven and redeemed through the blood Jesus Christ shed on the cross.
He is that coach whispering, ” I trained you. Together we can do this. Together we can fight. We can face the devil. We can win. I am with you!”
Today, you might be that person who needs to share your past. It may even be worse than mine. I want to encourage you to find someone you trust and share what you’ve been hiding and ashamed of confessing.
God wants to set you free.
The truth hurts when it’s locked away and festered alone. But with confession, love and forgiveness it brings a multitude of healing.
It can set you free and sometimes someone you love too💗
The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full. John 10:10 NIV
Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free. John 8:32 NIV