Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Thanksgiving Ponderings - Beauty for the Ashes

A couple of divine appointments last week gave me pause to stop and consider how God has taken our family from the ashes of nothingness to now reflecting His beauty and glory....We haven't always been who we are today....There was a point in time when all looked hopeless for my two sons, Brandon and Trevor, and myself....But God.....~  Let me share.....~
Last week my oldest son, Brandon, who is a pastor...brought a group of 90 to "The Call" in Detroit.  My husband and I were blessed with the opportunity to join him for dinner; however with his responsibility for that size group of adults and youth, I was a bit dubious as to how much time we'd get to spend with him.  God saw to it that we had the time.....(Brandon, now 33/blue check and Trevor, now 30 and grey shirt, live 800 miles away so we only get the opportunity to visit face to face about one time per year, which makes our times together even more precious.)

One table over, not wanting to miss an opportunity to gab, I took the chance of introducing myself to one young man, "Hi.  I'm Brandon's mom."

"I'm honored, " he immediately replied.  "I'm Paul."  (My mother's heart thumped.  This young man was honored to meet me!  God's restorative work through Brandon was the reason for his comment.)  We shared a brief discussion and I returned to join my husband and son.

And then an adult who is an instructor in the ministries school stopped by our table to chat.  Brandon introduced us, "Ruth, this is my mother."

Ruth sweetly offered,  "We just love Brandon.  When he speaks, the presence of God comes into the room.  We are so blessed to have him."

At this point, I could not hold back my tears....."Thank you", I choked.  "What a blessing to hear this, because God restored our family.  We were just trashed; just trashed as a family...but God restored us."  Memories of the past overwhelmed me....where we were then....where we are now.  Who would have thought?.....Only God!

TRASHED....ASHES...BOTTOM OF THE BARREL....BOTTOM OF THE HEAP....You name it, we were there.

Brandon and Trevor were both in the mid/later teens, yet still in high school when their father and I divorced.  They chose to live with their father....which collapsed my heart to shreds.  I felt as if they'd both died in a car accident.  My depression turned suicidal and I entered a local psychiatric unit for a week.
During this time, I had also become sexually involved with a former boyfriend.  The emotional emptiness in my 21 year marriage and my own issues made me vulnerable to Satan's pit into which I had willingly walked.  I submitted myself to the comfort of a married man's arms. 
I knew that I was wrong before the Lord and with His conviction, forgiveness, grace, mercy and strength later on, I stopped the sexual involvement, but the emotional attachment still existed.  We were planning to one day be married.   However, after discovering four years later that I'd been believing a lie, it was revealed that he'd never filed for divorce.  The ring and the dress which waited in my closet would one day belong to someone else....and my house of 22 years would belong to someone else, too. 
It was during this mess in my life that Brandon, in Feb. '99 - 18 years old and 8 mos. post graduation, showed up on my doorstep at 7:30 AM coming down from an LSD trip.  "Mom, do you believe in Jesus?" he asked.
"Of course I do, Brandon.  He's the only way."
Brandon continued, "I was in a battle for my soul for the past six hours, and it was only my faith that saved me.  I saw demons.  I saw angels.  I saw the Kingdom of Heaven."
Two weeks later, I had the opportunity to ask Brandon if he'd had a type of out of body experience....He replied, "Mom, Satan showed up that night and said, 'You're going to die tonight and I'm taking you with me.'  I even saw the demons attached to the posters that I had in my room!" 
He immediately moved back into my home.  Sleeping on the floor in the hallway next to my bedroom he shared, "Mom, when I sleep downstairs the demons come after me, but when I sleep up here next to you, I'm at peace."

Brandon turned his back 180 degrees on the lifestyle he'd been living, but I'd had no idea of the drug and pornography world that had taken hold of him.  It was while living with their father that Brandon, while in high school, began dealing marijuana out of their home.  Trevor got involved in this hell hole, too, even though their father was a lieutenant of road patrol in our regional sheriff's department.  
But God performed a miracle in Brandon as he came back to Him with his whole heart and gradually grew spiritually and emotionally stronger.
The fight at times was intense...and I got a crash course in spiritual warfare!  Yet, one more great battle had yet to be fought....Fast forward six months.  I was now living in a temporary place.  I'd brought Brandon home with me after he'd been at his father's.  The Lord had told me there was going to be a battle, and I prayed in tongues the entire 30 minute drive to pick him up.  

Not more than a half hour after returning to my place did the battle begin and continued for the next three hours.   I cannot remember it all, but what I do remember is this:  There came a point at about three o'clock in the morning when standing directly above my son, who lie spewing vile and vulgar obscenities in a voice I did not know, I called upon Jesus and His angels to intercede and help with a passion and a fervor never before known to me.  I could feel Him at my right side.  Brandon no longer looked to me, but to my right.....I cannot tell you what I said, I only knew that He was there....and my son was delivered that night.

Brandon will tell you the same thing.  He saw Jesus standing to my right.  Having gotten involved again with marijuana that evening at his father's, the demons had returned, seven times stronger than before....but Jesus delivered my son.  Hallelujah!  Praise God!  That was 12 years ago.
While living with their father, my sons wanted little to do with me....I knew enough about their living conditions to be very concerned....There was nothing I could do legally.  All I could do was pray.  And pray I did!
Then in 2000, while I was 800 miles away in Michigan having just returned from a 5 week visit to Germany, Brandon experienced a car crash in which the oncoming car T-boned his car on the passenger side.  He was airlifted to a larger hospital, because there was so much blood.  His car looked as if God, Himself had wrapped His hands around the driver's seat where Brandon had sat.  Brandon was discharged from ER that evening with a mild concusion and a cracked rib.  Someone from the flight staff visited him in ER before his discharge, "Dude, you shouldn't even be alive!!!!"

Then on a visit to Brandon's, gasping, I stared at his car photos for the first time.  It looked as if God, Himself, had wrapped His hands around the driver's seat where Brandon had sat. Stuttering through my tears, "Brandon, this is the type of wrecks that only drunks walk away from!"

"Mom," he replied, "It was as if an angel knocked me out just prior to the impact."
.....But God.....

Then last year, while camping in the northern wilderness of Michigan's Upper Peninsula, Steve and I made our way into a local village to secure more staples.  My cell phone indicated I had some voice mails.

Trevor's voice...weak, but there....."Mom, I'm in the hospital.  Remember the dream you told me about where you saw me in the hospital and I was calling out to God,'s happening now...."......and his voice trailed off......My heart stopped and I burst into tears....
I could barely get the words out to my husband....Just holding my phone up in the air to his face, I choked, "That was Trevor.  I don't know if he's dead or alive....."

And because there was no cell phone coverage where we were camping, this voice mail was 24 hours old!!!!!  OH GOD!!!!!

Frantically I called answer......then answer.....All I could do was wait and pray....Within a half hour, Brandon called....Trevor had made some bad choices the night before....Knowing that he was medically crashing, Trevor had called 911 for himself....He was admitted to ER at about midnight.  All I know is that his condition was not good.  Brandon arrived and prayed for Trevor....Trevor vomited into the wastebasket....He was released to go home at approximately 5:30 AM.  The doctor stated, "You should not have gotten better this quickly.  This just doesn't happen."  Trevor made it into work that morning....from one foot in the grave to fully restored.
There had been a time when in the midst of losing my 3500 sq. ft. home on a spacious, country 10 acres and everything I owned with the exception of 10 plastic storage bins containing my "savings" that I cried out to God.  "Lord, please, I beg of You, may I never have to bury either of my sons!"  I had nothing....but I had my salvation and my sons were alive.  I vowed that I could weather whatever further came my way....
God has blessed me with a wonderful husband  ...and my sons have bought a house together in the Carolinas.  Trevor manages a successful restaurant deli (and is a fantastic, creative chef when left to his own devices) and Brandon (also a fantastic culinary artist) continues in ministry.

Thanksgiving....Yes, thank You, Lord for restoring our family and giving us Your beauty for the ashes.  Isaiah 61:3.  

Thank You that in the Valley of Achor...that place of death....You ARE Our Door of Hope. (Hosea 2:14 and You became My Husband...Hosea 2:16)

Lord, I pray that this testimony of how You have worked in our lives will encourage someone else today who needs to know You ARE with them and You ARE mighty in battle and Your arm is not too short that it cannot save. (Isaiah 59:1)

"Lord God, I come before You in the mighty Name of Your Son, Jesus Christ and I pray that since You know exactly how You want to reveal Yourself to the person reading this testimony of Your Goodness, Glory and Strength that You show Yourself strong on their behalf.  Lord, when we are weak, then are You strong and You've told us that Your Grace is sufficient for us.  Father, I pray Your Grace be revealed for Your Glory in each and every person who reads this today....for Lord, we need You.  I pray Your Peace which surpasses understanding to cover the heart and mind of every person who reads this testimony....knowing that we overcome the evil one by the word of our testimony and the Blood of the Lamb.  Glory to Your Name!  Amen and amen."

Be blessed and Happy Thanksgiving to all.
Ever yours in Christ,

Saturday, November 19, 2011

God's Purpose in a Sporting Goods Store....Nonna Bannister

There are those times in life when we search out a particular book, and then there are the times when it is as if God puts the book into our hands, Himself.  The second method is how I came to purchase "The Secret Holocaust Diaries - The untold story of Nonna Bannister" by Nonna Bannister, Denise George and Carolyn Tomlin; available through via the link provided.

My husband and I live in Michigan and we love to fish in the lush Upper Peninsula.  Our summer trek is an annual event the end of August as the U.P. has usually "warmed up" by then!  And so it is that we have begun to include a stop at "Jay's Sporting Goods" shop; just a short hop from the Mackinac Bridge.

What is the likelihood of finding a Christian book in a sporting goods store?  But that is exactly what happened.  "Jay's" in Gaylord, Michigan offers a wide variety of hunting, fishing, clothing and home items; devoting one very minor section to a rack of Christian books.  We've been there so often that its not unusual for us to make a beeline for our favorite sections.  He enjoys checking out guns and fish lures, and I tend toward sniffing various candle scents, checking out the Woolrich brand sales rack and "testing" hand creams.

Window shopping in my corner of the store, I made my way to the Christian book rack....My eyes fell upon Nonna's book....a brownish black and grey cover....Nonna's photo of her girlish face...haunting eyes staring out over a lined linen parted....pigtails decorated with bows...The title: "the secret HOLOCAUST DIARIES - The untold story of Nonna Bannister".....

.....I picked it up...looked it the description on the back cover....flipped through some of the pages...and set it back neatly in the rack....Slowly twirling the rack around and perusing the other selections, I came back to Nonna's book....I felt drawn to this book....I read further....
Nonna had written an account of her life through the Holocaust and never revealed her story to her husband or family until much, much later in life.  And now after her passing, her story has been revealed for us. 

The back cover reads: "The Secret Holocaust Diaries is a haunting eyewitness account of Nonna Lisowskaja Bannister, a remarkable Russian American woman who saw and survived unspeakable evils as a young girl.  For half a century she kept her story secret while living a normal American life.  She locked all her photos, documents, diaries, and dark memories from World War II in a trunk.  Late in life she unlocked the trunk, first for herself, then for her husband, and now for the rest of the world.
     Nonna's story is one of suffering, torture, and death - but also of incredible acts of kindness that show the ultimate triumph of faith and love over despair and evil.  The Secret Holocaust Diaries is in part a tragedy, yet it's also an unforgettable true story about forgiveness, courage, and hope."

I was hooked.  A story of another over comer!  I wanted to know more.......

And then "more" happened; more than I had ever anticipated.....Throughout the past 20 years of my life, multiple people have encouraged me to write my story of adoption from Germany...finding my birth mother...and siblings...and the abuse which existed in my adoptive home and how the Lord healed me. 

This Fall was no exception....Having connected with other writers through the internet, women who had never met me personally were now encouraging me to write.  And God was letting me know that now is the time.  "Lord, I will need Your grace and mercy and strength"; for multiple times before I'd sat to write and gotten stuck in the thick sludge of memories and feelings.....How to write and not be overwhelmed?

And then I read Nonna's book....Her courage blazes across each page....Raw courage of survival....God triumphing with His goodness over all the evil which had happened in her life.  God's restoration for a past which had been ripped from her tender hands.....She hadn't signed up for this tragedy in her life.  Nobody signs up for a tragedy; for it is the result of something which is totally out of your control!  

However, God showed Himself strong on her behalf.  He gave her His beauty for the ashes.  Nonna's past did not determine her future.

I purposed anew that if Nonna Bannister could write her could I!

Thank you, Nonna Bannister; Thank you to your family for the countless hours you spent organizing, etc; Thank you Denise and Carol; but most of all, Thank You, Lord~

Tenderly yours,

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Forgiving the Unforgivable

I've been reading Denise George's blog: "Encouragement for Wounded Women" ( and her latest posting deals with a new book she's written re: forgiveness.

That touched a deep cord with my heart.  You see, my adoptive mother had been one of the sexual offenders in my past.  Nobody knew about it.  This secret I buried so deeply in my unconsciousness that I had forgotten about it until my mid-30's, in 1986, when I'd been in counseling for major depression.  About eight months into my counseling I sat in my room, alone, praying and writing as I had for so many countless days during the black shroud which had descended upon my mind and heart after a major downsizing at my place of employment.  I had to step down from a nursing administrative position...back to a supervisory position.  I knew it was inevitable, but when it happened, my house of cards disintegrated....everything crashed. 

This was not just depression, I was also suicidal at the time.  Dreams had turned into nightmares of fires from which I could not escape....Daytime became no less comforting as voices in my head...hearing my father's voice...constantly telling me that I'd failed...over and over and over again.....relentless....I felt robotic.  Even driving became and exercise in "who would win"....Satan or God?  If I arrived at my destination unhurt, then God won...and if I didn't, then Satan won.  I felt in control of nothing.  I felt nothing...only as if a walking dead woman.  My new supervisor told me that I had to pull it together for my staff....Taking a long, sucking draw on her cigarette across the conference room table from me' squinting her eyes, she warned (meaning my staff), "They'll get you, you know.  They'll get you."  My paranoia jumped to a new level.

It was during this time that I began to journal....It was my lifeline to sanity.  Somehow, I felt that if I could write, I might find something within myself to be able to remain sane.  I desperately fought to "find me" by writing tirelessly in the middle of the night...seeking God....seeking myself.....I had two little boys and held a nursing management position in one of our local hospitals. I wanted to remain in touch with what little reality I had left for my sons.  I didn't care about my husband.....His support remained non-existent; even though he worked in law enforcement and dealt with family issues in his daily routine.

My mental state was fragile at best and the psychiatrist who I was seeing at the time (her specialty being children) had given me her cell phone number in case I needed to speak to her. She had decided not to use any medical treatment for me stating that the "side effects were worse than the depression".  (Anti-depressives were just not as safe in the 80's as they are today.)

And so it was that during one of my alone times of journaling that I began to remember.....Seeing myself on the floor in our bathroom when I was about 3 or 4.  My mother seemed obsessed with my private area.  Somehow at that age, I knew that I had "three holes down there".....Memories of my mother with me in indoor tents we'd constructed...age 4-5....Her graphic description to me of how babies were made....Other things I witnessed that I will not write publicly.....

Being trapped in the bathroom with her and my brother while she gave us both enemas and ordered us to "hold it".  I remember my brother and I screaming...and the consequences for my brother when he needed to relieve himself.....And then....her icy voice....commanding...."Cristy.  Come get in bed with me....."  I could feel her arm clamping down around my neck...ever tightening as she barked, "Lay still!  Lay still!".....My breathing felt as if I must have stopped....and my memory blacked out.  These times continued until I was in my early teens....There was just no saying no to my mother.  I remember telling her no once when I was 13 or 14...and she replied as a commanding officer, "I said, 'Get in bed with me'."......Still to this day I do not have total memory of those times.  I believe it is God's way of protecting me.

As these memories flooded back, I thought I was going to have a heart attack.  I prayed for God to kill me, because my pain and grief was so overwhelming.  Writhing on the floor in my room, I begged God to kill me....but He didn't....and years later, I actively planned to take my own life....Will write that at another time of how God turned that around.....

Meeting with my psychiatrist, she stated, "Crista, I have no doubt that your mother sexually abused you.  There is just no way that people make up the kinds of things you are telling me....."

Years of counseling followed.....By 1990, I began to actively plan taking my own life.  My husband locked his gun in a safe in the wall.  I knew the combination.... Our marriage had deteriorated to ashes....I felt worthless as a mother....and became convinced that everyone would be better off without me.  Of course this was a lie of Satan, but it made perfect sense at the time.

A local Christian radio station aired "The Minirth-Meyer Clinic" early in the afternoon.  They always included their help line number, and I had heard the voice of Dr. Verle Bell, MD many times over.
I decided to make the call.  They accepted me as an inpatient, and praise God, Dr. Bell was the director of the unit in Naperville, IL where I spent a month in a locked facility in July 1990.  Intense psychiatric evaluation and therapy ensued.  My psychiatric evaluation stated: "Crista's self-esteem is so non-existent that she will probably be successful in terminating her own life within the next 10 years."  There was no hope in my prognosis.  None.  Only Jesus.

It was during this time that the Lord led me to II Timothy 2:13 "For when we are faithless, He is faithful, for He cannot deny Himself."  ....You know the old saying, "When you want to let go, tie a knot and hang on."  Well, I had no strength left to hang on to anything.....I was free falling...."God, You're either there...or You're not.".....So when He led me to this verse, there was a flicker in my spirit that let me know that even though I didn't have the strength, He did. My black hole was so deep that I didn't know if I'd ever emerge...and I didn't even know if I wanted to.  So if I did get out of this endless chasm of total blackness, it would be because of Jesus and nothing else!

It was while at Minirth-Meier that Dr. Bell asked, "So why would God allow all of this to happen?"....He asked the same question I had pondered so many time.  This hurdle seemed impossible to jump.  Adoption....Abuse.....I didn't get it.

So he answered for me.  "Crista, God never desired this to happen to you.  But God gives everyone their free will.  He wanted your parents to follow Him, but they chose not to.  It was not His desire that you be hurt, but it is His desire now to heal you."  I could handle that.

The end of July, I went a pitifully empty marriage...and my wonderful sons...ages 11 and 8.
After my discharge, God led me to a new psychologist....a Spirit-filled woman who knew how to pray.  Joan would spend a half hour discussing issues with me and then we'd go to prayer.

I do not remember the exact moment that I forgave my mother....because it was a process and a choice; having to deal with the betrayal and anger...but the Lord's healing and forgiveness came as a result of His healing inside my soul.

By this time in the mid 90's, my mother had gone through a mastectomy for breast cancer, and I was now in my early 40's.  The cancer had spread into her bones.  (In 1972 at age 53, she spent the following 18 mos. in a rehab hospital as a result of a major head injury following a head on collision which left her with right sided paralysis and an inability to speak appropriately.  Her memory of past events escaped her now...only wispy glimpses of days gone by remained.)

She had fallen as a result of the bone cancer and had broken her shoulder.  Walking had become more difficult for her.  She needed a hospital bed and someone to care for her 24/7.  Dad, who had just been diagnosed with Stage 4 prostate cancer and faced his own surgery, secured the services of a home healthcare professionals.  One of mom's RNs, Nancy, was a Christian and had been praying for my mother's salvation.  And one evening, with Nancy in the kitchen praying....I met with my mother while she lay in her hospital bed in the dining room of their home.

At this point, I need to tell you that my mother was a tough old bird.  She'd grown up on a farm during the depression.  Nobody was going to tell her what to do.  She was as determined as Scarlett O'Hara in "Gone with the Wind" that, "As God is my witness, I shall never go hungry again!"

Her family had gone through prohibition times...extremely tough times of dire poverty.  They bootlegged beer and whiskey; selling to the elites of their town.  Living on a high hill with no water pump close by, my mother and her sisters hauled water up the hill for laundry, dishes, weekly baths and  for their distillery. 

Mom and her sisters not only served as the barmaids, but as the entertainment, dancing on table tops for the men to enjoy.  One of their regulars was the mayor of Lowell; my mother's future father-in-law.

Nobody talked about the "secret" events which took place in their home as a child.....I only heard whispers alluding to things that happened with her cousins in the barn.  My aunt took her secrets with her to her grave; only stating that she'd "never tell".  Mom's "secrets" manifested in her abusive behavior towards me, explosive rage and her binge eating and purging.  Nobody ever talked about the demons inside of them.....All we ever did was sweep our "stuff" under the rug and keep buying bigger rugs....and pretending that everything was "normal".

My mother's primary goal in life was to be a millionaire.  I'm not sure, but I think their long career in Tupperware put them pretty close to achieving this goal....However, by this time in 1995, she'd spent 23 years of her life as permanently handicapped...mentally and physically.

I can't tell you the exact point when I forgave my mother, because I spent much time in a depressive fog.  But I can tell you that there was a day when I was able to say to the Lord, "I choose to forgive my mother through and by the Blood of Christ.  What I am unable to do, You are able, Lord."  I realized the enemy had come to destroy her own life as well.  She had been victimized in her childhood, too.

So here it was: September 1995.  I was 42 years old and my mother was 74.  Her body still paralyzed on her right side and now her shoulder broken.  She lay in her hospital bed....completely spent.  No longer would her bones heal - the cancer had stolen this capacity from her body.  The was in pain.  My mother who could always do what she wanted....couldn't.

"Mom....Do you know that by accepting Jesus into your heart that one day, you will be able to go Home to Him in Heaven and you will be perfectly healed and be able to walk just fine and not have any pain?  Do you know that right now, without Jesus, you will go to hell when you die....and your pain will be worse than it is now....and it will go on forever.....Mom, Jesus wants you to ask Him into your heart.
If He were to walk into this room right now, would you take His hand."

"Yes", she softly replied.

Then mom, "All you have to do is ask Him into your heart.  He will be there for you."

It was at this time a miracle occurred.  My mother who never needed anyone her entire life, bent her heart and asked, "Jesus, please come into my heart.  I need You."

My mother went Home when the Lord came to get her seven months later.  That's another testimony for another time. 

It was two years ago that I met with a precious woman of God and a friend who led me in more deep, healing prayer....asking Jesus to take me back to the times He wanted to show me and heal me even further....The question: "Crista, where is Jesus?"....I will tell you that in my spirit, I saw Jesus.  He was right there with me when each event occurred....And I will tell you that it is true when scripture says, "Whatever you do unto the least of these...You've done it unto Me," (Matt. 25:40)....He literally meant it.  Everything done to us to hurt us by the enemy, is done unto Him.  And I knew in my spirit that what my mother had done to me had been done to her. My forgiveness for my mother had turned to sorrow for her past....and my forgiveness went even deeper than before.

Forgiveness.....What we are unable to do....He will.
Hope has a Name....and His Name is Jesus Christ.
Be blessed.~

Ever yours in Christ,

Monday, November 14, 2011

Blog site for Wounded Women~

Author and speaker, Denise George, is writing a new blog site: "Encouragement for Wounded Women".  It is outstanding!  We are in such need as women for a ministry such as this.

I encourage you to check it out and to share it with others.
Also, Denise's book is available via for only $0.99.
Blessings always,

Welcome ~

The purpose of this blog is to encourage our walk in Christ; together in Him; for as we develop our relationship with the Lord, we ARE more than conquerors through Christ Jesus! Praise God! My writings are mostly from an experiential standpoint; however sometimes this includes dreams and visions. (Comments are reviewed prior to posting.)