January 3 is my birthday. 52 years ago (dare I say my age?!) I came bouncing into this world with bright red hair and blue eyes with an Irish twinkle in them. I was born into a large Italian Catholic family and my three sisters and I spent all our holidays up in the wine country in Northern California, visiting my cousins, aunts and uncles and grandparents. The towns were sleepy vintner towns, before the yuppies came and turned them into art, wine and mud bath havens for wealthy tourists.
On my birthday, I decided to have an adventure. I drove up to my family’s home town in my bright red Zip car, for a fun day of celebration. My plan was to bike around town and visit all the old sites. My grandparents house, their graves and do a little wine tasting. It had been 7 years since I had been back or seen any of my family members who resided there.
This town has a town square complete with gazebo and park benches, to sit and soak up the sun in. Around the square I was surprised to see art galleries and wine tasting rooms in number. I set out in the surprisingly freezing cold morning on my bike to begin my adventure.
I biked to my grandparents’ house across from the high school and stopped. There was the orange tree I used to climb in front of the old house on the corner, where home movies show me toddling with my Easter basket to pick up Easter eggs. I walked around the corner to the lot where my Papa had his garden. It was completely gone and I felt sad. I used to love to hear Nana say “Go out and pick me some fresh green beans for dinner.” She made the most delicious vegetable soup which we would eat with warm bread fresh from the bakery.
Memories flooding my mind, I biked the short distance to the cemetery behind the sports field. Nana and Papa died within six months of each other, she at 90 years and he at 95. I had only been to the cemetery once since they had passed and I was anxious to find the plot. I pushed my bike through the crumbling gravestones, looking for the family name. I walked up and down trying to vex my memory as to where the plot was located. I prayed, Holy Spirit, please help me find the graves.
As I was about to give up, I saw a plot in the corner by the fence. Yes, I remembered this from the funeral. And there it was. Catherine and James, devoted wife and husband. Someone had put a Christmas wreath on the grave and I added my remembrance stones, as was typical to put on a Jewish person’s grave. My Jewish heritage comes from my father’s side, and Nana was my Jewish Italian grandmother, though it was never discussed openly.
I was completely surprised what happened next. As I was telling my grandmother how much I missed her, I broke into tears. I began to sob how I wished I could talk to her about how the family relationships had all fractured since I shared the abuse I survived as a child. How she would be the one person who would have told me the truth about what happened and confirmed my memories for me, which had been repressed for many years.
I know it would have broken her heart to hear what had happened to me. I could have cried on her shoulder over the horrible pain and devastation I experienced from the sexual trauma that happened to me as a child, a secret I had been forced to keep quiet all my life to prevent family shame.
Nana was the one person who instilled in me her strong faith in Jesus and prayed for me constantly. She passed the faith torch to me, and I was the first person in my family to become born again and receive Jesus as my Lord and Savior. She struggled with my decision to leave the Catholic Church and join an evangelical one. But she never stopped loving me, or praying for me. How I missed her phone calls always telling me I love you.
After awhile, my crying subsided. I prayed one last prayer, asking her to help heal our family from Heaven. I then said goodbye to my grandparents and biked away toward the town square. I visited three or four art galleries, talking with the local artists and enjoying their art. I love to view art with an artist’s eye and I was not disappointed. Beautiful landscapes of grape vines in fall colors exploded on canvases as I walked by each painting.
Feeling hungry, I stopped at a seafood tapas restaurant and had barbecued bacon wrapped scallops, followed by the most divine bread pudding, for my birthday dessert. I love trying bread puddings wherever I go and this one definitely pleased. Croissants soaked in creme brulee sauce with a layer of bananas and melted chocolate on top. Yum!
After lunch, I walked around the corner and tried one of the local wineries’ tasting room, that had food pairings with each glass of wine. I was the only one present and a very knowledgeable and friendly host welcomed me. Liking only white wine, he began to serve me six different tastings, each with its own cheese sample.
Oh, the smooth taste of a light white wine, coupled with cheese topped with sea salt and truffles. My taste buds exploded all over the place! I had to laugh as I saw Jesus in my mind’s eye next to me enjoying his own glass of wine, experiencing both the joy and sadness on my special day.
By now, the sun had come out and the town had come to life, as others joined me in the tasting room. I strolled back to my Zip car, with a smile on my face and contentment in my heart. It had been a day of memories and closure, a town I no longer had to avoid because of my pain, as my heart was now whole again.
Jesus had come during a New Year Eve’s church service a few days earlier and healed my shame and heart over my abuse. I didn’t think it was possible to put together my shattered heart but He did it! I was now able to receive the love of God as my Heavenly Father, an image that had been distorted by my own father’s actions.
Every year on my birthday, I ask the Lord for a special Scripture to commemorate my day, and for the year ahead. This year he gave me Psalm 45:13-15.
All glorious is the princess in her chamber, with robes interwoven with gold. With many colored robes she is led to the King, with her virgin companions following behind her. With joy and gladness they are led along, as they enter the palace of the King.
Yes, I now felt like a special princess for the first time in my life. I had discarded the dirty robes of shame for a robe interwoven with gold. Joy and gladness did indeed fill my heart as He blessed me with His love on my birthday.
Do you need healing from sexual abuse in your life? Confidentially reply to me at firstname.lastname@example.org and I will share resources and help for you to find healing in your life.
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