The teacher tossed my report on her desk. “I’m not going to read that,” she announced. “It’s just copied work.”
Thirty sets of eyes stared at me. What had been an engaging history review, reading class reports, was replaced with utter disdain. Whispers filled the silence and I sensed my face turning a crimson red.
The instructor shook her head in disbelief and proceeded to the next one.
I was devastated. My paper was not copied. I had used one source, the textbook, to verify a date. All the information came from my brain; I wrote it in an hour effortlessly while seated at my desk.
I was too upset to say anything—and for someone like me, who is outspoken to a fault, that didn’t happen very often.
When the school bell rang, I grabbed my books and ran home, replaying the humiliating scene over and over. I wondered how she could accuse me of such an injustice.
Later that evening, I told my parents what happened.
“Honey,” Mom said to Dad, “You need to talk to that teacher. That’s not right, to accuse Lori of plagiarizing in front of the class.”
“Are you sure you didn’t copy anything?” Dad asked.
“No,” I said. “I have never copied anything. I don’t need to.”
Besides that, I was a straight-A student. I wouldn’t want to receive a failing grade for cheating. My fragile self-worth was wrapped up in a perfect report card. To receive a “B” meant I had no value. My distorted self-image tainted my view of God, others, and myself.
To be a high achiever was my way of dealing with the emotional baggage that I carried around for years until God freed me. My birthfather “left” my mother and me when I was little. I failed the first grade because I couldn’t read. I was bullied for being a failure and ostracized for the first three years of school until we moved to a different district. I had no friends and felt out of place in a world that made no sense. I had all sorts of behavioral problems and was considered at-risk for juvenile delinquency. I was unhappy and lonely.
A psychologist tried to “straighten me out.” He threw up his hands: “She’s either a genius or retarded, I’m not sure which,” he told my mom, “though one thing I can say for sure, she has an undiscovered talent.”
My mother told me that story when my love for writing became evident. I wrote short stories when I was eight, poems when I was ten, and nonfiction with gusto by the time I was in fifth grade. I wrote two fiction books by the end of middle school.
In high school, my writing took a back seat to music when I studied classical guitar, wrote songs, and was frequently asked to perform at major events, like the Georgia Honor Society, Kiwanis Club, and beauty pageants, after I was First Runner-Up in the Cobb County Junior Miss Pageant.
Though insecurity kept me from becoming the person God created me to be, my passion to write took me to worlds where I could find hope and meaning, something my parents could not understand. In fact, they just didn’t understand me at all. They tried sending me to ”finishing” school, but I was bored. They would comment on my writing, “That’s nice. Now go clean off the table.”
Although my parents always stood up for me in important matters, when it came to choosing a career, they were practical. They represented the American dream—entrepreneurial and hard-working. They started a map business that became the lifeblood of the family. Anyone raised in such a circumstance will understand how powerful the impact is on family dynamics.
But I took after my talented birthfather, a well-known photographer. My mother would point out his works in Life, Look, Southern Living, and National Geographic magazines. She always recognized his photographs before even checking the credits. But the compliments ended there. Her pain ran deep, and it prompted me to want to meet my birthfather many years later. I found Bruce Roberts to be much like me—creative, reflective, impulsive, unstructured, emotional, sensual, moody, and introverted. Most surprising was he understood me.
But because I valued my parents’ approval (I was adopted by my stepfather) I gave up what I wanted to do to become who they wanted me to be. Though part of me wilted on a vine, feeling cut off from the Great Gardener, it did mean I would be able to support myself later. Lest I sound ungrateful or angry, I am not. Life is what it is, and as a parent, today I know they did the best they could. I didn’t turn into a drug addict, get pregnant out of wedlock, or make choices that society deems as “unacceptable.” I also now have a greater appreciation for how hard it is to parent, having raised my first one and still working on my second.
To this day, my mother’s words still haunt me: “You never know what the future holds. You need to be able to put food on the table. Your father walked out on you and left me penniless.”
While I was too young to remember much, I have one vivid memory that I shall never forget. I stood in front of the window and watched for hours for dad to come home (it was my second birthday). He never did.
Becoming a business major, a physical therapist or something that would meet my parents’ approval had no appeal to me. Following one year of college and a summer I would just as soon forget—I’ll spare the emotional details for brevity’s sake—I started court reporting college, and twenty months later, embarked on a court reporting career that spanned 20 years.
Did I like court reporting? No. I hated it. There were days I lashed out in uncontrollable rage over depositions that kept me up all night for an impending trial. The lack of control over my personal life was overwhelming. There were too many broken engagements to finish transcripts that wreaked havoc on an already strained marriage, which later ended in divorce. Frayed nerves dealing with irate attorneys who didn’t care a hoot about me caused me sleepless nights. Attorneys blew smoke in my face from cigars and cigarettes that made me sick. I took allergy shots for years to combat the health effects. The whole world of court reporting left me an angry woman. Even a once-caring doctor/husband couldn’t put me back together.
But court reporting did one thing: It made me self-supporting. After my husband “left” me, although devastated and broken, I had the freedom to choose my future. I recommitted by life to Jesus Christ in hopes of becoming the person He wanted me to be. God used those court reporting skills to prepare me for another career that would take me down a path toward dreams I had long forgotten.
Fast forward a few years—through heartbreak, counseling, and forgiveness. God redeemed much. I can now appreciate even more the life He has given me, and how He answered my prayers with two precious daughters from Nepal and Vietnam.
A profession that didn’t even exist when I was in court reporting school has allowed me to work fulltime from home—in a job I wouldn’t have if my parents had not been so adamant about being able to support myself.
Court reporting paved the way for closed captioning, and the journalistic nature of broadcast captioning gave me the self‑confidence to pursue my dream of writing.
I look back on the years that have passed since that day in fifth grade when I was accused of plagiarizing. What if life’s circumstances had been different? What if my parents had let me major in English? What if my husband had not left me?
We all have moments when we question monumental choices and outcomes that send us down one road rather than another. If God had made everything easy for me, I don’t believe I could have become who He wanted me to be. Those sought‑after accolades, striving for perfection, fear of failure, and overwhelming insecurity, made me too dependent on man and not on God. I needed to be independent of the world and others to find my security in the Creator.
In Jesus Christ, we live, breathe, and have our being—love unshackled, poured out, and overflowing. His love supersedes the injustices and the wrongs others have done to us and what we have done to them. We can embrace our passions and pursuits in the name of our heavenly Father who is never short on affirmation or long on remembering mistakes. No longer am I bound up in pleasing others or enslaved in co-dependent, unhealthy relationships, seeking approval to make me feel like I am “okay.”
I also remind myself that we were created for heaven to be our home. The gifts God gives us, the temperaments we are born with, our strengths, and our eternal soul, were all intricately designed by the Creator for one purpose—to glorify Him. That is the chief aim of man for our short time here, but more importantly, for all eternity. We are simply passing through on a journey, hopefully growing up in a way that will bring us closer to Him.
Hebrews 11:13-14 states: All these people were still living by faith when they died. They did not receive the things promised; they only saw them and welcomed them from a distance, admitting that they were foreigners and strangers on earth. People who say such things show that they are looking for a country of their own.”
God never promised that we will “arrive” here on earth to fame or fortune. We might sell thousands of books; we might not. Most of us will be like those saints who went to heaven without ever accomplishing everything that God set before them. Many were martyred, but they died living out their passion and serving God in a world that was not worthy of them.
According to library.thinkquest.org, each year fifteen million children die from hunger. In sub-Saharan Africa alone, every year eight million children die from aids and malaria. In quieter moments, I wonder what those children could have become if they had been given a chance.
Or what about, since 1973, the almost fifty million children who have been aborted? Or the 150 million orphans in the world who long to be loved? We can rest assured that God is in control. He has counted the costs and given everything He has on the cross. He knows each of us better than we know ourselves. He is mindful of the suffering and has not forgotten even the sparrow that falls from a tree. It’s just that He’s more patient than us for justice to have its perfect way.
If we trust in Him, God will give us everything we need to become all that He intends for us to be—but it may not be here. It may be in the world to come, an eternity that awaits us, where love reigns supreme and no tears are shed. I take comfort that the perfection of the gifts He has given us will be completed when we arrive. I am reminded of Timothy 6:6: “…godliness with contentment is great gain.”
I am thankful for my parents’ human wisdom, for the stumbling blocks and untoward circumstances that made at times pursuing my dreams difficult. It’s in the struggle that we learn faith, faith that will grow us up if we don’t grow weary. The fires of this world humble us if we are strong in Him and prompt us to ask: Who am I when no one is looking? Is the stuff I am made of, in this jar of clay, just stubble, or is it precious and chiseled by the Creator’s hands?
Love is God’s choice to allow us to be free. Have we used our freedom to die to our wants to receive a heavenly reward that earth can’t take away? Will we still have our gifts to lay before the throne (the gifts He’s given us), or will we have squandered them and lost the blessing? Do we fight the good fight, or do we give in to sin and temptation? Do we refuse to forgive that hurt? What are we holding onto that is more precious than God Himself? Are we even worthy to receive the gifts God gives us, or will we selfishly use them to buttress our own ego?
It’s never too late to dream big and it’s always too soon to give up. As I continue to work on my Master’s in Creative Writing, scrambling for a few minutes here and there to finish this book or write that review or commentary, I remind myself that things that matter are never easy. The details are in the process.
If we keep our eyes focused beyond this world on our heavenly home, God will accomplish His perfect will in every nook and cranny of our lives. The years the locusts have eaten will be redeemed, if not here, in heaven. The what if’s and if only’s will be replaced with acceptance of the things we can’t change and the wisdom to know the difference. Jesus holds the deed to earth in His scarred hands, and with thankfulness, I write, from a healed heart, remembering from whence I came, and hopefully touching the lives of others. The outcome is always in God’s loving hands.
Lorilyn grew up in Atlanta, Georgia, and currently lives in Gainesville, Florida, with her two daughters, her dogs Sirius and Molly, and four cats. Lorilyn is a media professional and provides broadcast captioning for television. She makes time to pursue her passion for writing and will earn her Masters in Creative Writing from Perelandra College next year.