saying goodbye

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When we move to Sacramento to join the Greens, life gets uncomfortable right quickly. Not the friendly gatherings I’d hoped for. Within a few months Jim, Lila and Steve decide my daughter Sarah (then 11) has to go live with her father who the day before served me with papers for visitation rights. Steve had said to him, “You’re not her father anymore, I am.” Ricks only sin is loving his daughter. He only wants shared custody. But Rick’s influence, they say, is “worldly, and he’d spoil her, and it’d harm her and all the other children, too.” As Rick and Sarah drive away I wait to see if she’ll look back, but she doesn’t. She wraps her arms around Rick’s neck, her smile about the size of her universe. The next day Lila says to me, “You mustn’t call, nor write her, do you understand that?” I was being tested.

Weeks later at a meeting my 13-year-old daughter Iantha (now Rebekah) is put to the test. She’s close to my mom who when we move to Sacramento we think we’ll see more of. But Steve says grandma and grandpa are “of the world,” too. He tells Iantha she has to choose between living with them or us. She says she wants to live with us. But Steve says she needs her faith tested. “I want you to go live with them for a month,” he says, “and THEN, YOU decide who you want to live with. Us or them? You can’t have it both ways.” Is God really this mean?

I stand up, holding Iantha’s hand, and I say, “You can’t do this to my daughter.”

Driving home, no one says a word. Even Nate, who’s 6, is holding his tongue. Once home and the kids are in bed Steve lashes out. “Don’t you ever embarrass me like that again, do you hear?  We’re here to do God’s work, and if you don’t want to be a part of what the Lord’s doing, then you and the children can all go live with your mom and dad.” I’ve never seen him angry like this before. I was 35 years old and two months pregnant.

So Iantha goes and lives with them, and after a month calls us saying she wants to come home. To Steve her return is not evidence enough of her commitment to Jesus Christ. As soon as she returns he hands her a box, and says, “ Put the stuff your grandma bought you inside this box. We’ll take it to the post office and return it to her in the morning. I want you to write your grandmother a letter, too, and tell her you’ll never see her again.” Is God really this mean?

Iantha’ letter (#1). Found when my sister and I went through our mom and dad’s estate. Emotions turned inside out.

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