At sixteen, I lived with my family of eleven in the old Standard Oil gas station on the corner of Main and N. Putnam. We actually lived in the garage.
Daddy built three sets of bunk beds for us eight kids. The four youngest shared. Daddy and Mary, my stepmother, slept on a rollaway bed. My one-month-old niece slept in a bassinet.
We had an electric stove, a refrigerator and a large storage cabinet. We placed a 4' by 8' sheet of plywood over the hydraulic lift to use as a table.
Mary opened a gift shop in the office. Everything we sold was handmade by us. I learned how to create beautiful flowers, baskets and candles. I enjoyed crocheting afghans, hats and scarves.
Some days I forgot about the smell of engine oil and grease as I created beautiful objects that people would enjoy.
That winter we heated the garage with a potbelly, wood burning stove. When the temperature dropped below freezing outdoors, Daddy moved our milk cow into the garage with us.
My sisters and I shoveled manure into buckets and dumped it in the back yard. The foul odor became another normal part of our life.
The oddity of our lifestyle separated us from our peers. The matriarchal power abused by Mary to isolate our family trained us to follow her instructions to the letter. If not obeyed her punishment was severe.
For eighteen months, because of Mary’s control, I spoke to no one outside my family.
Why? Control. Plain and simple.
We all have a desire to be in charge of our own lives and our environments. Some, like Mary, cross the line.
In the Old Testament, the Jewish leaders added many laws after they received the Ten Commandments from God. The people focused on obedience to the rules and many lost intimacy with God.
Jesus did not come to set rules or force us to obey His commandments. He offers freedom not control. Abundant living is ours to receive and share. Love one another. Pray for each other in times of lack and times of plenty.
“So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets” (Matthew 7:12 NIV).
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