Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Second Chance Wednesdays - Part 1

Have you ever heard God laugh? No. Here’s what you do: tell Him your plans. Then sit back and listen for the chuckle of the Almighty.  It is kind of like my parents chuckling at me when I told them – at the ripe old age of four – that I was going to marry Buck Owens one day and be on Hee Haw with him.  There is no malice in His laughter. Just Him saying, “oh my child, that is lovely… now let Me show you what *I* have planned…”

So... all five of you loyal readers are obviously breathlessly waiting to see what I told God that He laughed at, so I’ll give. (Note: this conversation with God was totally private, so I could probably get away with not telling any of you and you would be none the wiser. But then the rest of the post might not have as much impact. And He is definitely telling me to share that.) Let me lay some ground work for what my plan was.

People of the Second Chance (POTSC) have started a new campaign called “Never Beyond,” meaning never beyond grace. They will be putting out a new poster each week that has a likeness (or partial likeness) to a person - historical or contemporary, real or fictional - who has harmed society in some way. (I’m holding out for one of the posters to have the Cucuy on it!). POTSC has asked bloggers to then write a post about that person and talk about giving second chances. I was asked to participate and I said yes. (ask me in a few weeks how that is working out for me!)

This week our poster has Casey Anthony on it. If you are one of the three people in this nation who don’t know why she has been cast as a villain, please click here. I cannot vouch for Wikipedia having every detail right, but you will get the basic details of why there are plenty of people who don’t really have anything nice to say to or about Casey Anthony. Here is this week’s POTSC poster:

If you cannot read the text on it, it says, “who would you give a second chance?”

Here is where we get to my best-laid plan. I thought, “Sure, I can write something about her”.  I started planning out in my mind how I would say that receiving grace does not mean we don’t have to face consequences – look at the thief on the cross next to Jesus. Jesus told that man that He would see him in paradise that very day, but He didn’t take the thief down off the cross. I would write about how even the serial killer Jeffrey Dahmer had accepted Christ before he was killed in prison. I would even remind you, dear readers, how I wrote a post back in June about Jesus wanting the heart of a war criminal. I was going to mention that having granddaughters makes the Casey Anthony case hit close to home. (By the way, all of these things are true.) I was going to write one righteous essay on this second chance deal!

I told God about this plan. After the chuckling stopped, I heard Him say, “really, Carolyn?” while giving me “the look”. You know, the look your Mom gives you when you are trying to sketch by with a fib? That look. Which is why it is often known as “the Mom look”. As His gaze pressed down on me, I could tell that He had His own plans and they did not in any way include me getting to distance myself from the issue and piously offer grace as if it were mine to dispense in the first place. I squirmed. I might have pleaded just a little bit. But I told you all awhile back that I was working really hard at not saying “no” to God (the results of that are always so messy).  So here we are. Bet you are wondering what He had planned for me to say, aren’t you? I’m such a good guesser!

*fidgeting just a bit*

This is where the rubber meets the road. This is where I say the hard stuff and hope that you see my heart – and God’s heart – in using my story for something more than the useless pile of manure it used to be before I came back to Him. It might be hard for you to read and I promise I will be asking for my own second chance before we are through. I wish this cup would pass from me, but I’ve heard people say too many times “I’m so glad you told your story - I thought I was the only one” to think that God isn’t serious about me telling this.

*so here we go*

There are many people who like to think they would have protected Casey Anthony’s daughter if they had been around that family. These are the people who cannot fathom that a mother would endanger her child in any way. Some of these same people are having a hard time extending grace and a second chance to Casey Anthony. You might be one of those people. But do any of us right here in the little land of my blog actually know Casey Anthony? No? Me neither.  It is sort of just an academic exercise at this point, isn’t it? So let’s bring it a little closer to home.

A few weeks back, I briefly mentioned in a post that I had once hurt a child. If you feel the need to dredge it all up, you can find it here. So let’s talk about me for a moment (even though I would prefer not to). There are many details that I won’t give you, not for my own sake, but for the sake of that child. I am still in contact on the internet and by text with some of her close family members. They have shown grace in giving me forgiveness. They don't deserve to have to deal with this again. So I am going to err on the side of caution when comes to exposing them to hurt – again – in any way.

Some people ask, “was it an accident?” No, losing my temper and hurting this child was not an accident. If you are in a relationship where somebody is trying to excuse hurting you in any way by saying that losing their temper is an accident (or worse, saying it is *your* fault), contact me and we will get you some help. Losing one’s temper is not an accident. So no, what I did was not an accident. It was not pre-meditated either. I was feeling very hurt and used by her father. She was misbehaving and I lost my temper. I vaguely remember wanting to hurt somebody so that I would not be the only one hurting, but there was not a lot of thought that went into it. Just pure reaction. I spanked her. I kept spanking her until she had some nasty bruises. Did she deserve any of it? Never. And I loved her. Then and now. She was not a child of my womb, but I love her so much. The consequences of my actions were far-reaching and altered the course of that family’s history forever. I cannot give you more details without endangering their anonymity, so I hope you will leave it at that.

Was that it? Did I pull back in horror and change my evil ways? No. I did not learn to stop being a victim and passing the victimization on to somebody smaller - not for a long time. There were two more children (not at the same time). I did not hurt them as severely as the first child, but that matters not one little bit except that it is a detail. It only happened once per child, but that matters not one little bit except that it is a detail.  The only way I have not killed myself to alleviate the guilt is by the fact that grace was extended to me from several directions. Too bad I take that grace for granted most days. God keeps offering it to me and I keep taking it, so I get “used to it”. If only I could respond with awe every time. I don't have to imagine what it is like for the Almighty to forgive horrid crimes against humanity. I know.

We can and should acknowledge the fact that I am covered by grace. We can talk about how I repented and God was faithful to forgive. Both very important points. Still, that does not change the fact that when you look at me, you are looking at the face of a woman who hurt three children. Just like when you look at Casey Anthony, you are looking at a woman who is part of a mystery that we may never unravel. 

I don’t know what happened to little Caylee Anthony, other than she died in suspicious circumstances. I don’t know what Casey did or did not do to hurt her daughter. I know that she lied, because that was admitted in court. Other than that, I have no details. Even being the person that I am – so completely covered by grace – I think that I would be somewhat uncomfortable in her presence, at least at first. Then again, sometimes I am uncomfortable in my own presence. But regardless of whether or not I ever know the details of her daughter’s death and regardless of whether or not I get to meet Casey Anthony, I hope that she will get to know grace as I have known it. I hope that she will respond to Christ’s call. I hope she accepts the second chance.

Now let’s look at our poster again and ask the question,  “Who would you give a second chance?”

I sure am glad that I heard God's laughter today. 


  1. First, second, third, fourth - and more - chances. Yes. Thankful for mercy that shines brightly every morning. Thankful for forgiveness that haunts and woos. Thankful for a God who never lets go.

  2. Awesome, isn't He? Thanks for coming by. Hope we "see" more of each other!

  3. Carolyn- your story is beautiful. Thank you for sharing and taking a risk, your courage is amazing. So thankful for grace in my failures and glad that my failures or hurts or past does not define me. Thank you for stepping out to give grace.

  4. Thanks, Ashley. It was a great day when I realized these things don't define me. Hoping to help some other people learn that too.

  5. Carolyn, thank you so much for sharing your story. Your face in that red square at the end speaks volumes! Each of us could put our faces there in place of Casey Anthony. Thank you!

  6. Thank you, Eileen. My gut is slowly untwisting from the weird shape it was in when I hit "publish" this morning. ;) I didn't expect the first POTSC writing assignment to hit so close to home. But maybe it's better that we got the hard stuff out of the way first! Thank you so much for stopping by.

  7. Carolyn,

    I want to start off with saying that I love you.

    Secondly, I can only imagine the soul tingling that has been and will continue to go on until you receive all your comments. Or maybe that's just me and I would be on pins and needles until someone finally gave me the "how come" and the "what for" as to why I am not worthy of any chance, let alone a hundredth one.

    I read on Sarah Markley's blog yesterday your comment and immediately I had a reply in my heart that has been waiting in the wings since. I will leave that to the end.

    Carolyn, I was pregnant at 16 years of age. The pregnancy, the birth and the fact that I even raised her is a longer story than this comment will allow. But, I will say this, at one time, when she was probably 2 or 2 1/2 she was throwing a tantrum. I know, I know, so outside of normality for a toddler. And I was at my wits end. Wits. End. I picked her up, walked her to the doorway.......I'm so ashamed to even finish this, but I feel it appropriate to share with you, since you opened your gates to us......Lord have mercy!!!

    I threw her on her bed and she fell backwards onto the wall and landed on the electric baseboard heater that stuck out. And I shut the door.

    That beautiful, wonderful, amazingly sweet child didn't have a chance in hell with this "kid" as her mother. I was told from the get go that I wouldn't know the first thing about being a mom. Initially I proved them all right. And then I spent years proving them wrong. All of this being in my own strength and I fell apart in 2004. Another long, horrible story.

    She is now 25 years old. I never did that again. My awareness as to what I was capable of was brought bubbling over the surface and I kept myself in check until of course she was a teenager, than all bets are off!

    My reply, that's been hanging on since yesterday my dear, sweet Carolyn is from a book by Anne Graham Lotz titled, Just Give Me Jesus......

    He is the God of the second chance, the fat chance, the slim chance and the no chance. He makes change possible.

    Heavenly Father, thank you for bringing conviction to Carolyn to share her story here today. If You reach one person, unbeknownst to any of us because of her courage and obedience, it will be more than worth it! Thank you! In Jesus' name - Amen!

    Love you girl! Fer real yo!

  8. Rebekah, I love you too. So much in such a short time. Thank you for sharing your story here. It helps a little with my "tingling" feeling (you got that one right). I'm am so glad that I am getting to share this "chance" with you. Your prayers for me are uplifting and I cannot thank you enough. xoxoxo c

  9. I am writing this in tears. As a social worker and guardian ad litem, I have worked with multiple people who have a story, just like yours. As a Christian of many years, I know that change can and does happen. Unfortunately, too many of those stories never end with grace but there are ones that do! And that is why *most* people in the system do what they do, hoping that they can save a child but also save a family.

    I also have had my encounter with God over people who deserve a second chance. I was in college when Ted Bundy terrorized FSU. Several years later, as a criminal justice major, I saw the crime scene and autopsy photos. I wish I hadn't. I was haunted by those images for years. When Ted Bundy was going to the electric chair and he made a confession of faith to Dr. Dobson, I was furious! How dare he think he could get a "Get out of Hell" free card?? The day of his execution, I "happened" to be in Bible Study Fellowship and during prayer time felt a push to pray for Ted Bundy. You can imagine my horror. I argued with God, "you gotta be kidding?" Then I grudgingly offered up a lukewarm "Make it quick and painless, Lord." Such an obedient child. And God spoke so directly to my heart that I have never doubted it was Him "If there is no salvation for Ted Bundy, then there is no salvation for YOU." I burst ibto tears, because it is TRUE. If we start deciding who gets a second chance, then none of us do. It's all or nothing.

  10. Melissa, welcome. God is counting your tears. I hope it does not shock you too much to know that I am a licensed Bachelor level social worker. I have seen the devastation in families (though I have never worked for Protective Services). I have been the one to make the call for help. It seems that God has a sense of irony. Not lost on me. He uses our stories in funny ways (funny to me, at least) but I'm learning to just go with it. He always makes something out what seemed like garbage. And He graciously gives me front row seats to His miracles. Stop by any time and feel free to contact me.

  11. I am so bummed because somehow my comment got lost. Carolyn, This is a most beautiful story of redemption. I love you all the more for the telling of it. In every word you breathe the heart of our Creator as you tell us all that we will never, ever, ever be beyond His grace. No matter how many mistakes we make, no matter how bad it is His grace is above it all. You have beautifully displayed this remarkable love that doesn't look at behavior and allow it to define us. We are NOT what we have done. It's all so stunning to consider. What a gift you have given today as you have allowed us to see the redeeming hand of God. I'm so blessed to know you. Thank you my friend for your beauty spilled out in these words. Just stunning!!! xoxoxoxo

  12. Julie, my love, thank you. That reply is definitely going in my "Julie and Rebekah" folder. I guess I should add Kara so she doesn't get left out? ;) I'm going to end up with a folder in my purse of printed responses from you. I'll look like a bag lady at some point, but I don't care. Bring on the love!

  13. Oh, and Julie? You can go to to check out People of the Second Chance

  14. Thank you so much for sharing Carolyn. It should be me on that poster as well. So grateful for my Second Chance.

  15. Lisa, I am grateful for your Second Chance as well. So glad you stopped by.

  16. Wow! I'm not even sure what to say. I read the post with tears in my eyes...for a couple of reasons. One, I was that judgmental, critical person that would NEVER have given someone else a second chance, yet would've demanded it for myself. Two, I've been there! There were so many times I begged God to kill me because I was this horrible monster. I hated myself. How in the world could God love me?

    God has such a remarkable way of extending grace to us. And yes, the ways that He uses our stories to help others is such a marvel to me. I have just recently started sharing bits and pieces of my story with others and it is amazing that there is always someone who says, "You, too?".

    And yes, I would extend grace to you over and over again. Because I know that our Heavenly Father has extended it to me far more times than I EVER deserved.

    Love you, Carolyn. Thanks so much for sharing your heart with us.

  17. Kara, I am so glad that we connected! I'm glad if this helped you even a little. Thank you so much for joining in. Love you too!

  18. Thank you for this post! For me, one of the biggest personal revolutions I've ever gone through is to come to understand myself as a villain, as someone who has been given second chances I don't deserve. Anyway, thanks for blessing me with you writing today.

  19. Shackbible, thank you for coming by. It is a pleasure to be used by God to bless people. I appreciate you letting me know!

  20. Look at you with all your wonderful comments.... The truth is when someone opens the secret places of their hearts to us.... we love them all the more for the telling of it.

    So glad to see you being loved on.....

  21. wait a second I thought there were only three other readers!

    anyway truth be told a few weeks ago I had to look up who Casey Anthony is. I don't watch the news or read much of it, so I was way out of the loop. But as soon as Christians started attacking her I got uncomfortable - our righteousness can easily be turned into anger justified (supposedly) by God.

    Oh and I learned long ago to not make plans. I was supposed to go to graduate school after college - I ended up doing a road trip and accidentally moved 2500 miles away to Oregon. And then I was convinced I wouldn't get married til 30 because I was traveling so much - well I'm 27 and soon celebrating my 2 year anniversary. And we have a daughter. So what plans are we talking about? Just silly ones.

  22. You have an amazing story! And it took guts to share it. Thank you for sharing a piece of yourself with us. Your story has and will continue to help others. I'm so thankful for the second chances that allows each of us to move forward in the purposes we were created for.

  23. Charlie, there were only three readers. Then I joined the POTSC project and I couldn't hide anymore. Glad you came by. Glad you understand about "plans".

    Thanks, Karen. I'm glad that I found POTSC before this project started. I know it is going to radically change things for all of us who participate by writing or reading. Good to share it with it.

  24. Carolyn, thank you for your transparency. Life is so hard - and then we go and make it harder on ourselves. Thankfully, we have that good-spirited, loving God to hold us when we reject ourselves, those around us, and sometimes even Him. I've been "saved" since I was in junior high, over a half a life-time ago, but I'm still getting used to the whole idea of "being made new". With that refreshing "new-ness" comes redemption, beauty, and undefiled love. Years later, on days when I especially think I've got it - I realize that I may NEVER fully understand it, but God's love for you, for me, for every single being on this planet is so very real, life-giving, and fulfilling.

    Thank you.

  25. Melissa, I'm glad you stopped by. Glad I can share in God's love with you. I have a friend who calls it "wallowing in grace". Haven't experienced it quite like that yet, but I'm looking forward to it.


Thank you for joining me here.

Moral support, prayers, and witty comments always appreciated.