Knocked down

My mother loved to describe my learning to walk, out on the grass behind our house on Oxmead Road, in Burlington, NJ. We had a nanny goat named Minerva. I’d attempt to stand, in typical toddler fashion with my diaper-padded derriere rising first, thus providing an irresistible target for our well-horned goat. Before I could straighten and get my balance, she would come running and butt me flat on my face.

Mom holding Janie w grandfather in background

For some reason, this was hysterical to my parents as they watched from the porch. I never got why it was funny.

But it did explain how I learned to get back up, again.

Janie in backyard
On back porch

And, obviously I did learn to walk (in spite of Minerva, who suddenly disappeared from our lives when she ate the sheets off the line, then went for mom’s roses).

I would have never walked if I’d stayed on my tummy, wailing into the grass.

We all get knocked down. Whether by cruelty, abuse, neglect, maliciousness, sickness, or a broken relationship, the death of a dream or a loved one, accidental injury or targeting by evil intent, we have all been sucker-punched at least once.
For most of us, way more than once.

So it isn’t about asking if we’ve been knocked down.

It’s about our determination to get back up, no matter how long or what it takes to get there.

(A note here about down time: YD gave me a wall plaque that I love. It reads:

Prayer: It’s hard to stumble when you’re on your knees.

A lot of wisdom there.)

I think much of our adult behavior is shaped by how we initially cope with face-plants. We form habits when we are too young to evaluate their effectiveness or cost to us, but we survive, so we figure it works.

We often continue responding the same way well into our adult lives, sabotaging our present circumstances.

It’s as if that take-down when we were one takes us down again at 14, 30, or 70, unless we are aware, and work to change our response.

Work is the operative word.

No habit goes without a fight. And I’m beginning to think emotional habits are the hardest of all to change. A knock-down can easily launch a temporary crippling pity party in me, and unmanageable frustration or rage in others.

My emotional journey would have started better if my mother had come off the porch, picked me up and comforted me, and restrained Minerva so I could learn to walk with nothing more than my own weakness or lack of coordination to trip me up.

She didn’t. (I know, now, she had her own take-downs that impeded her living and mothering, no matter how much she wanted to be a good mother. Forgiveness and healing have been huge here.)

There must have been more events like that, because I grew up thinking my feelings and pain didn’t matter, that speaking up wouldn’t bring assistance, and that I was helpless in the face of strength.

I’ve been knocked down a lot.

Like Minerva, the strong ones know a target when they see it.

But I have gotten back up.

Little Mac in Johnny’s arms
LIttle Mac on blanket, Virginia Beach, VA

When my precious little brother, Mac, drowned in Lake Oswego, through the love of my aunt and uncle in Philly, and the prayers and guidance of my grandmother in Ocean City, NJ, my aching heart came back to life in the hands of Jesus.

After we moved from Oswego, NY, I learned that my first boyfriend there had been killed, hit by a careless driver.

I cried all night.WalterThen I got back up, again.


Every time the Navy moved us, every three or four years, just when I’d left my introverted corner and made friends, I was thrust into a new situation. I didn’t think I could survive.

But I did.

My list goes on, as yours probably does, too.

What matters is I discovered I am not, in fact, ever alone. I never have been, even in my mother’s womb.

The Spirit of the One who loves me perfectly gives me strength to rise when I think I cannot go on.

At my age, the struggles are less about other people and relationships and more about my body not putting up a good fight. I have spent much of the last 2 1/2  years working to heal.

I’m doing everything in my power to get back up,

and kick fear behind me, no matter what my body does.

To live fully

To love more

Always looking forward to an eternal life with no knock-downs!

What a God we have! And how fortunate we are to have him, this Father of our Master Jesus! Because Jesus was raised from the dead, we’ve been given a brand-new life and have everything to live for, including a future in heaven—and the future starts now! God is keeping careful watch over us and the future. The Day is coming when you’ll have it all—life healed and whole. I Peter 1:3-5 MSG

How have you learned to get back up?


Kindly forgiven

But Jesus’ priestly work far surpasses what these other priests do, since he’s working from a far better plan. If the first plan—the old covenant—had worked out, a second wouldn’t have been needed. But we know the first was found wanting, because God said, Heads up! The days are coming when I’ll set up a new plan for dealing with Israel and Judah. I’ll throw out the old plan I set up with their ancestors when I led them by the hand out of Egypt. They didn’t keep their part of the bargain, so I looked away and let it go. This new plan I’m making with Israel isn’t going to be written on paper, isn’t going to be chiseled in stone; This time I’m writing out the plan in them, carving it on the lining of their hearts. I’ll be their God, they’ll be my people. They won’t go to school to learn about me, or buy a book called God in Five Easy Lessons . They’ll all get to know me firsthand, the little and the big, the small and the great. They’ll get to know me by being kindly forgiven, with the slate of their sins forever wiped clean. By coming up with a new plan, a new covenant between God and his people, God put the old plan on the shelf. And there it stays, gathering dust.
Hebrews 8:6‭-‬13 MSG

A day to thank good men

Happy Father’s Day to dads, uncles, grandfathers, stepfathers, and foster fathers, and to the men, whether neighbor, teacher or occasional mentor who sacrificially sew into the lives of youngsters they encounter.

To those who deny themselves and choose the welfare of their families

To those who take the time and energy, and perhaps resources to be a difference maker for those who need a hand up

To the men who live so that your footsteps are good for children to stretch to walk in

Thank you.

Though we had a healing time at the end of his life, my father, foiled by his own demons, was unable to bless me most of my life.

However, there were men who made all the difference.

My Uncle Hal Mehan was my first love. He made me feel precious, glad to be a girl. I thought he was going to wait for me to grow up. However, seeing reality, I traded him to Aunt Carol on the eve of their wedding for her wooden high-topped roller skates.

Uncle Charlie welcomed me to his heart when Aunt Betty took me home to Philadelphia the day after my brother’s funeral in Oswego, NY. He incorporated me into his warm Italian family, took me to the bakery, fresh pasta and cheese shops on a daily basis, and bought me my first set of new clothing. On weekends he took me to museums and zoos. For a month I was the daughter he never had, an only child who sucked up all the love.

At Oswego State Teacher’s College Campus School, my fifth and sixth grade teachers, Dr. Canfield and Dr. Strebe lifted me from the double misery of grief after my little brother drowned, along with the pain of being an extreme introvert with a heart untended. They called me to live when life wasn’t even an option, and affirmed me as a person with value. And Dr Strebe ignited my love for written words.

After our move to Houston, in high school — my seventh school — I was blessed by a young man who was a student at Baylor medical School. John started a youth group where he challenged us beyond platitudes and easy answers. Through him I went from a childish faith to a real relationship with my Lord.

I struggled through most of my adult life, but even small touches from strong, loving, God-filled men made a huge difference, at times the crucial difference.

When my Dad lay dying at Bethesda Naval Hospital, John appeared just at the moment when I thought I couldn’t cope. He was a pathologist there! By the time we finished a walk around the greens, I was ready to sit with him and pray for the first time in several years. A new level in my faith journey began that day.

Many times God has sprinkled strong, loving, caring men into my life, filling places left empty by my father’s failures.

Showing me that there is a Father who will never fail me, never hurt me, always love me. Helping me to learn to trust.

So men, if you don’t think you matter, you are wrong.

You don’t have to be Superman to save a life.

You don’t have to be Moses to lead a child out of slavery.

You don’t have to be a shepherd to lead a child to safety.

You don’t even have to be a father to make all the difference in a young life.

Just step up, and be the man.

A real man.

Thank you.

Dear reader, who has been that ‘good father’ influence in your life?