Starting Fresh
T. Suzanne Eller

"This means that anyone who belongs to Christ has become a new person. The old life is gone: a new life has begun." 2 Corinthians 5:17 (NLT)

It was a typical holiday scene. My mother hummed an off-key tune in the kitchen. My father lounged in his faded blue recliner, while my husband and brothers talked about the football game on TV. The younger children played cards, while the older kids talked about my daughter's recent acceptance into college.

As I viewed the scene, I stood still in my tracks. Wait! When did we become a "typical family"?
My past will never resemble a Hallmark card. My mother had her first baby at 15. She lost her footing as she tried to be a young mother and wife. She was physically and verbally abused by her young husband and fled at 20 to start over. Alone and pregnant—with me—mom met a good man and later they married. But the emotional baggage took its toll on that relationship, and later on our entire family. She often threatened suicide. She raged. She lashed out physically. She begged for forgiveness. If I let my guard down to love, the next day or the next week a new scene would unfold. My heart hardened at a tender age.

Flash forward 25 years. I am no longer a child. I'm a woman with young adult children of my own. God has healed my heart.

As I stood in the living room I realized that I still viewed my family through the past. I had let go of the resentment, the anger, and I loved my mother and father, but I still saw my extended family as broken. In far too many ways our relationship was founded on that perception.

I stepped back and took a good long look. Who was my mom now? How had she grown? Did I recognize what God had performed in her life?

The answer was no, and I was not alone in this thinking. My siblings also wrestled with this. No matter what my mother did, no matter how much she had overcome, she still had a scarlet letter branded on her. She was marked "B" for broken.

My family had been "normal" longer than dysfunctional. I realized it was time to step into the present and leave the past behind.

That day I fully transitioned from child to adult. I reflected on what God can do in spite of a broken past. I rejoiced in what had taken place in the heart of my mother and our family. It didn't just change me, but it changed my mother and our relationship. Somehow she knew we had crossed a new threshold. The burden of guilt was eased as she looked into my eyes and realized I saw her fully as the woman she had become.

Several holidays have passed since that day. My mother still hums off-key. I still bring desert. But when I look at my family, I don't just see a family gathering, I see a portrait of God's grace.

Dear Jesus, do I recognize the miracles You have done in my loved ones? Do I hold on to resentment even if that person has changed? Give me new eyes to see. Paint the picture fresh for me as I extend the mercy You so freely gave to me to one person in my life today. In Jesus' Name, Amen.

Related Resources:
Do You Know Him?

The Mom I Want to Be: Rising Above Your Past to Give Your Kids a Great Future by T. Suzanne Eller

Youniquely Woman: Becoming Who God Designed You to Be by Kay Arthur, Emilie Barnes, and Donna Otto

Visit Suzie’s blog where she shares what to do when a dysfunctional loved one hasn’t changed. Make sure to check out her other resources here!

Application Steps:
o Refocus: Take the spotlight off your childhood and put it on to the present.

o Be Realistic: Even normal families have conflict. There is no such thing as a perfect family.

o Relent: Do you rehash bad family memories or bring up the past to punish a loved one? Are you willing to begin a new conversation?

o Receive: Amends may be awkward and not what you think they should be. True grace is receiving a gesture with the same spirit with which it is offered.

"If we treat people as they ought to be, we help them become what they are capable of becoming." ~Johann Wolfgang Von Goethe

Power Verses:
Matthew 9:13, "Then he added, 'Now go and learn the meaning of this Scripture: I want you to show mercy, not offer sacrifices.'" (NLT)

© 2009 by T. Suzanne Eller. All rights reserved.

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

Wow! I can relate so much to this. Now I just have to do the hard part- move from the past into the present. It can be so challenging when I see glimpses of the past to see it as new.

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thank you for these words of grace. How it must hurt the Lord when we refuse to open our eyes to His work in those we love. Lord, soften my heart to those around me and let me forgive like You do.

Anonymous Anonymous said...

My question is what happens when things are moving in reverse... i.e., childhood is normal and then in adulthood everything turns dysfunctional?

My challenge is working through accepting the present and praying/hoping for things to change - that Christ can move mountains and make all things new again.

The nostalgia is hard to release, especially when the present is so hard to accept; however, I know things won't ever be the same, but through Him they can change, right?

Anonymous Anonymous said...

This was a different perspective and it gave me pause. I'd like to know more, like how do you know when to stop guarding yourself so closely, how can you train yourself to continually recognize the miracles that are growing so slowly around you? What can one do to help loved ones see them with new eyes? To help others see a loved one with new eyes?

Anonymous Anonymous said...

This devotion really spoke to me today - I have never left a comment before! My mother suffers with being Manic-Depressive and has since I was the age of 5y. She did not get diagnosed properly until I was a senior in high school. This has all but destroyed my family along the way. I am 33 now with 2 children of my own. I still hate to see major holidays roll around each year due to the verbal and emotional trauma I went through growing up, especially as holidays tend to bring out her worst. I have learned that God can turn any mess into a masterpiece and I can not let my past effect my own husband and children. With God, all things are possible. Even healing broken relationships and choosing to forgive even if I never truly forget. Thank you for your words today and allowing me a place to put mine.

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thank you for sharing this. Your life will be much happier now that you let go of the past issues. I'm glad you remember NO FAMILY IS PERFECT. We are all sinners.

My past is much like your mothers. I am branded B for broken. I did the best I could. I was single raising children alone with no child support.

I remarried someone I didn't love to help support my children. I took my children to church, kept them from sheltered (maybe too much) taught them to sew, took them to libraries, plays, swimming, choir, piano, etc. but I wasn't perfect.

My husband was abusive and I lost my temper a lot. I apologized to all my children several times.

One daughter does not speak to me. Her husband & her wrote me a letter and told me they didn't want me around their children.
They accuse me of being deceptive because I wrote a Bible study magazine article without confessing I had been divorced nor reveal some of my children are step children. (I have publicly announced all those facts but not in that article which was written to promote Bible study)

My life is work in progress, my goal is to encourage others to understand the love of God.

It breaks my heart. Life is short. I have serious heart disease. I probably won't be here by the time she gets around to forgiving me. Its a such shame. No family get together, no relationship with the grandchildren.

I have apologized. and begged forgiveness and agreed to ANY type relationship they want. But it was never enough.

Yet, ironically she is very close to her stepfather an ex-con church goer involved in illegal activities, gambling trips, tax evasion, Medicare fraud, and much worse. His activities are justified.

I am not the person I was- she knows that. I live every day to the best my ability to obey God. I am weak but He is strong.

The rejection is too painful to describe. I have come to the point I believe God is keeping us apart because I wouldn't be able to handle the pain of the unforgivness in person.

I know she will never be happy as long as she hangs on to this resentment- Forgiveness is Bible 101. But they will twist scripture and justify non being unequally yoked or something similar.

I pray for each of them daily. I pray she will be able to forgive e and herself after I'm gone because I'd hate to think the unforgiveness will continue to tear her apart.

Anonymous Anonymous said...

This really made me think. I realized that I may have not recognized God's miracle of healing in my family. Thank you for the thought provoking devo.

Blogger A. Grigaliunas said...

I cannot relate much to this, but it brought tears to my eyes all the same. God's grace is beautiful, and everything He touches becomes beautiful. =)

Blogger roadrunner201 said...

Thank you for this post today. My head and heart struggle with the need to be a dysfunctional pattern breaker and sometimes I forget that God is the one in control of that.

Anonymous Suzanne Eller said...

I can see that there are many honest and good questions being asked. I promise that I'll try to address those on my blog over the next few days. They deserve answers.

Suzanne Eller (Suzie)

Anonymous LaRae Weaver said...

Oh my where do I begin. My whole life I have dealt with this. I have always fealt broken,like God could never do an amazing beautiful work in me. I was saved at a very early age around 9, now I am 30. I am divorced and I have four children. The oldest two are with their dad and the youngest two I have with me. For the first time in my life I am seeing how much God truly loves me, and how he loves us all. I knew today before I even got on here to see the devotion that it was going to deal with what I am going through right now, it was like I could just feel the Lord telling me to just pause and go to Proverbs 31 ministries site. I had tears streaming down my face when I read the devotional and all of these comments. I have made the decision to rejoice in my infirmites and to know that if God can use all these wonderful people in society that we know, and use all these amazing christian artists that sing, and lift us up every day, how they can use all these struggles they have gone through and turn them into these beautiful songs to touch our hearts in ways nothing else can. We all gain strength from other people, if God can use them than I know that he can, is, and will continue to use me. I still deal with fealing broken, but I serve The God that heals, and performs miracles every day. He can pull us out of that miry, nasty, dark, terrible place and make us beautiful, unique, happy, whole, victorious christian women. So today I proclaim myself as marked with a "V" for Victorious instead of "B" for Broken. I rejoice in the things I have been through because they have helped me become the woman I am today. God loves you, and we are called to reach out and love one another. Lets walk in love and see how He changes us.

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Oh my goodness. This hit me in the face like a bucket of knives flying at me. Especially when you said...I had let go of the resentment, the anger, and I loved my mother and father, but I still saw my extended family as broken.

I need to fall on my knees and pray that I need to repent of my feeling for the new extended family. My own family has since gone to be with the Lord. It was an abusive home, but I have been able to forgive my parents and siblings. I have been able to praise God for the miracles He did for our family in the last years of their lives.

However, I all I see from my in-laws is disfunction. They don't seem (in my opinion) to know how to love and share and just be together without the stronghold (as I see it) for money over their family. It's very frustrating for me, and I do pray that God will remove this stronghold, and unify this family.

Yet, that does not give me the right to judge them or critize them. I know better, and I just need to stop and show them the love that I know, and be a light in the family instead of a finger pointer.

Words can not express the blessing this post brought to me. And, as I sit her and realize this was a hard one for me to realize and admit, I know that Father needed me to verbalize this out loud, and I know I need His forgiveness and guidance in my view of my in-laws.

Praising God for you, these words, and this ministry. You all bless me each and every day. I feel like God is chaning me through your wonderful words and work. Thank you Lord for Proverbs 31 and these talented woman for all that they do for us.

Tina Marie

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thank You Jesus and these Proverbs 31 friends these devotions are an instant constant reminder of how God So Deeply Loves us and Does Provide for us. Mom of 2 on the road traveling for a friend.

Blogger Christine Smith said...

just a quick thank you for this post today. Blessings on your day!

Anonymous Jessica said...

This was great! Thanks!

Blogger jamie said...

i was talking to the girls this morning at my job about this very thing. My relationship with my mother is not great at all. I wish that her and i could cometo a place where we could leave all the past behind. I know i need to forgive her for the things she has done but sometimes it can be so hard and i pray and pray about the situation but it never seems to change. I choose to stay away from her and i don't want this but how can i make it better for her and i?

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Incredible devotion Suzanne. I went through the same transition with my mother two years ago. It's a major God thing. I heard a sermon at church and walked out of the building determined to let go of the past. Our entire famiy has been better for that choice. Thanks for sharing your story.

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Man...I am that mother...who is so constantly trying to make better choices, and earn everyone's trust back because I am ill. Re-diagnosed lately; I have to relearn how to live, how to react etc. It is so hard. Thank you for showing me that there is "hope" that one day my kids will look at me and see, well..."normal" HA...ok, won't carry it that far.
You are inspiring and I don't take the time every day to read your stuff and I am going to try and make the point to do so.

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