My mother looked so beautiful, dressed in a cream-colored suit and matching pillbox hat. She seemed to glow in the candlelight of the Methodist church where she was getting remarried. My sister and I were in attendance, looking very pretty in our new dresses our mother had picked out for us just for the occasion. My dress was cream also, with a bright green sash. I was pleasantly surprised that she approved the wild-looking shade of green.
I was not accustomed to such church formality and having to behave like a little lady for the ceremony. This was my first time in a church, and I was appalled to hear that no Double-Bubble was to be seen in my mouth. It was time, however, to learn these ladylike ways, and it was that night I got thrown into the deep end.
As the nuptials began, I was not paying much attention to everything that was going on because I was itching—and it was maddening. I scratched myself ever so slowly, trying not to draw any attention away from my mother and the sacredness of the moment. I really wanted the marriage to go well for my mom this time around. This fancy dress was making me nuts, however, and all I could think about in that very moment was clawing myself to pieces. Maybe I was allergic to the fabric?
I distracted myself by looking at my sister, Suzanne, and soon-to-be stepbrother, Phillip, who were standing close by. They too, looked uncomfortable and fidgeted from time to time. Thankfully, it was a short event, wrapping up without much pomp and circumstance.
We all returned to my stepfather’s house where Suzanne and I were installed in the guest room, lovingly prepared by our mother beforehand for our arrival. This was going to be our shared bedroom for a few months until our new house was built. We were anxious for our new life together to unfold and wanted to feel at ease in these unfamiliar surroundings. Mom made sure my array of stuffed animals was waiting for me, perched atop my rolled-down bedspread.
When I undressed, I noticed I was red and splotchy, but I just attributed it at the moment to the itchy fabric. I was tired, as this kind of event can drain even the best of us. I finally drifted off to sleep—scratching, and anticipating our new life together and how it would unfold in the days ahead.
It unfolded in a very unexpected way the next day. Suzanne, Phillip and I woke up that morning covered with chicken pox—from head to toe. Somehow it had missed all three of us in our younger years, proving the theory that the older you are when you contract chicken pox—the more severe it is; yep, and confirmed in our own in-house test survey.
This started our new, blended family out on a sour note of which it never seemed to recover. My mom refused the honeymoon plans and insisted on caring for my sister and me. This year in my memory was a really difficult time for my family and for me personally. We all recovered from the chicken pox—but seeds of jealously had been sown between my stepfather and his newly acquired wife and family—especially with me, being the eldest girl.
So many changes were on the horizon; I had to change school districts as we moved into our new house shortly before the school year resumed. I left all my friends and familiar places to start a new life, again. We have had many do-overs to this point, and I had only just turned thirteen.
For some reason, my sustaining grace was my optimism and my sense of humor. I was not a Christian yet, but I was aware that God had me in His sights. I made friends easily and enjoyed walking everywhere I went. I learned to enjoy walking at an early age, being without a father for so many years and my mother not learning to drive.
I really loved our new neighborhood and was making new friends quickly. I always found a reason to be happy, and I was hopeful that things would begin to turn around for me and also for my family.
It did eventually turn around—just many years in the making.
I received an invite to a daytime party just a few houses down the street. School had just started, and I was all in for making some new friends. It appeared very harmless to accept, and I made plans to go with my two best friends, Ginny and Helen. But, the boys that were there that day—I barely knew at all.
When we arrived together, I noticed the girls were on one side and the boys were way on the other side of this tree-lined backyard. I parked myself and the girls on a blanket offered in the shade.
I was sitting in the grass with my legs crossed Indian-style, just hanging out with my girls for a long while. I wasn’t sure how long I was going to be able to stay at this party because no cool drinks were served on this hot day, and there was no music playing—not even a radio. This was not much of a party in my estimation.
Ginny and Helen ventured from me for a few minutes to go flirt with some of the boys. I was shy of the boys, so I sat alone awaiting their return as it was very warm, even in the shaded area. At that time, a boy walked over, and he sat down next to me —suddenly…he kissed me. I was completely startled, and I did not kiss him back.
I always thought a kiss should be shared with feelings, or at least with mutual affection. There certainly was none there in the kiss for me. But something happened to him. I was not dressed provocatively at all. I had on white bell-bottom sailor pants with a peasant-style top to cover up my skin-and-bones frame. Also, added to this mystery was the fact that upon standing I was at least four inches taller than he was. I pulled away from him, engaged other people with talkative interest, and left the party shortly after that.
I heard by word of mouth a few days later that he liked me. I made it clear that I was not interested at all. His admiration and interest for me suddenly turned toxic, and full of malice.
Because I walked everywhere I went, as this was my life thus far, many times I was walking alone. I became any easy target of prey for him, as he always seemed to be in the places I went to with frequency.
I learned at a very young age to pay attention to my surroundings. I had to. It is hard to be engaged every minute and be on your guard, though. My sunny attitude would lift me out of a precautionary state—and it was usually at these times he would appear, almost like a ghost. It was at these moments he would attack me verbally with name-calling and belittling, sometimes getting right up in my face. I never once retorted or lashed out.
He began to get bolder and bolder, and my friends who were nearest to me witnessed these attacks and even stood up for me. He got at least two verbal jabs a day as he passed me on the way to and from school, zipping past me on his banana-seat bike as I was walking.
I often wondered on really bad days about the wicked, and if they ever slept. I came to the conclusion early on in life—they probably don’t sleep very well since they are up all night planning their next move.
Damage was being done to me in how I saw myself because of this almost daily report spewing from his lips. My girlfriends would encourage me and tell me he really was just hurt by my rejection of him, and what he was saying about me was not true at all.
With everything that was going on, I did not tell my mother what was happening with the bully as I did not want to further complicate her life—and worse than that, make her worry. My mom was a champion worrier! I should have told her, as I am sure she could have helped. I see this now in my older, wiser years.
Well, finally…the day came. I was sitting at a football game a year later, the first game of the season. The abuse had gone on for an entire year. I was thinner and taller than ever, and his relentless bullying had not let up one iota. Most of his verbal insults were about my thinness. My nicknames were “Twiggy” and “Long, Tall Sally” among my friends. He found ways to turn my thin build into a target for relentless attacks, as he had crossed the personal boundaries long ago.
I was sitting among my football-cheering friends on that day, but also added to my group was an old friend from elementary school I ran into at halftime at the concession stand. We were strictly chums, and I invited him to sit with me for the remainder of the game. He agreed and came to sit with Ginny, Helen and me.
I didn’t realize it at the time, but I was being watched and surveilled. The bully was eyeing my every move and followed us back to where I rejoined all my friends. He stepped right in front of me in the stands, about 10 rows up from ground-level where we were sitting. He got right up in the faces of my friends and me, and blocked our view of the game. He was so red-faced and boiling over with anger before he even started his tirade. “Well, so this is your boyfriend!” as he began the awful showdown. I could hardly believe what was happening.
I, however, turned into someone else. I had truly had it with this boy, and today it had to stop—here and now.
I stood up, towering over him even more than I recalled from the first day I met him. I grabbed him by his shirt, and I lifted him off the ground as I shoved him out of my way. He lost his balance and fell backwards down ten rows of hard stadium seating mingled with kids and parents. He toppled head-over-heels and landed at the very bottom row, springing back to his feet. It kinda reminded me of an alley cat falling from a fence into a row of trash cans but coming up unscathed—having nine lives to spend.
He stood up and continued yelling at me in front of God and country, telling me he is going to have me arrested. He stormed off in a fury as all eyes are on him…and then—all those eyes looked back at me in pity.
I felt really bad, as I did not intend to hurt him, but to stop this scene from progressing. My friends disagreed and said, “It’s about time, Sal!”
I sincerely thought I was in for even more of the same abuse— multiplied by a million. I thought I was dead meat for sure. But just the opposite was true. Never again did he utter a single word of insult to me!
The bully, Mike Miller, died before he reached his junior year in high school. It was reported in the local newspaper that he was out riding his banana-seat bike after dark and was struck by a car.
No, it was not me driving, just in case you are wondering.
I forgave Mike Miller, and asked the Lord not to hold his sin against me to his account. I have since become a Christian and know the key to every hurt, pain, disappointment and sin are resolved only at the cross of Christ.
I was right too; God had me in His sights then, and now—and for all time.
If you or someone you know has been bullied or has just been through a series of tough circumstances, please send along this article to them. I would love it if my story aided someone and pointed them to Christ.
Healing verses from God’s word:
“But the Lord is faithful, who shall establish you, and keep you from evil” (2 Thessalonians 3:3).
“For the oppression of the poor, for the sighing of the needy, now I will arise,’ says the Lord; ‘I will set him in the safety for which he yearns’” (Psalm 12:5).
“Many are the afflictions of the righteous, but the Lord delivers him out of them all” (Psalm 34:19).
“We are hard-pressed on every side, yet not crushed; we are perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed—” (2 Corinthians 4:8-9).
“Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? As it is written: ‘For Your sake we are killed all day long; we are accounted as sheep for the slaughter.’ Yet in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us. For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities nor powers, nor things present nor things to come, nor height nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 8:35-39).