Friday, July 27, 2012

Virelle Kidder: With No Reason To Give Up On Life, She's Embracing It All

Everyone's Story welcomes its new guest, Virelle Kidder. When I first discovered that Virelle was raised in upstate NY I knew I had to ask her to guest on this blog. And thankfully, here she is. A full-time author and conference speaker, Virelle encourages us to hold onto God's hand through the rough spots in life. She has weathered through many trials, including a childhood with an emotionally troubled and alcoholic father, and then watching her own children and husband suffer through a variety of health crisis. This wasn't what she envisioned for her life as a starry-eyed young girl, but she's glad she hasn't given up.

This week Virelle shares with us a book excerpt  from the memoir she is generously offering as a Book Giveaway (see below), as well as thoughts on what drives her life forward.

Have you had your own shares of rough spots in life? How did you get through it all? Come share with Virelle. She'd enjoy hearing from you ♥

                         Virelle's Special Book Giveaway:
Virelle is generously offering 1 copy of her non-fiction book THE BEST LIFE AIN'T EASY, BUT IT'S WORTH IT to 1 randomly chosen commenter. The winner will be announced here on Friday, August 3rd. For ease, please leave your email address within the body of your comment. Thanks!

Unraveling the Layers of Life:

Writer Shares Importance of Transparency and Authenticity in Life's Journey
Despite our best intentions for a happy and fulfilling life, life seldom turns out the way we once imagined. In her new memoir, The Best Life Ain’t Easy, But It’s Worth It (Moody Publishers), Virelle Kidder candidly reflects on a life filled with bumpy disappointments, hard choices and a deep commitment to her faith and family. Readers will connect with her stories as a young girl losing her father, talking to God as she played in the woods, grappled with a loving but controlling widow-mother, and hungered for the truth about life. 
For a sneak peek at Virelle's book:


by Virelle Kidder

Chapter One

“Stopped on the Way to the Fair”

         When I was six years old and my brother Roger was ten. my father piled the four of us into our ’51 maroon and gray Dodge and headed to the Thousand Islands on the St. Lawrence River. To this day, I remember being carsick in the back seat from both parents smoking in the front. Roger patiently kept me entertained and relatively quiet with funny word games and whispered jokes.  No one wanted to make Daddy mad.
         On the way home, we stopped for lunch in a pretty small town named Mexico in upstate New York, just off Route 11, a few miles from Lake Ontario. Driving down Main Street, we passed an impressive brick school with huge white pillars and a bubbling stream next to it. Lining the streets were lush maple trees shading quaint Victorian homes, churches with spires, small stores, a little post office nestled among them, a tiny A & P, an even tinier a barber shop, and a shoemaker next door. My father fell in love on the spot. Right after lunch he found a realtor and bought a six room, 150 year-old gray house on Lincoln Avenue at the edge of town. He had no job there; we had neither relatives nor friends. But no one protested, not even my mother. Moving was an annual event in our family. I thought everybody did it.
         The day the big van unloaded our things, I met my best friend Barbie. Her sister Jane rode around the corner on her bike and invited me home for lunch. Both sisters had cute Buster Brown haircuts with bangs. Barb was shorter than me and shy, but full of adventure. Soon we were inseparable.
         At home mother papered and painted every room and Daddy had the house painted red, built a white fence around it himself in the hot sun, and planted hollyhocks, purple iris and roses. He never worked again, but often sat alone admiring his work in a lawn chair in our side yard. 
         That summer he also joined AA. Dr. Thompson, an anesthetist from Syracuse became his sponsor. The Thompsons often visited us, bringing along with their two enormous black Newfoundlands, both champions, Sam and Mary. Dr. Thompson would let me “walk them” in the yard, which was more like them walking me. I grew to love AA picnics and the people we met there. My father and mother looked happy again. We all relaxed a bit.
         Sometimes I sat and talked with my father in the yard, asking him to tell me funny stories. Telling stories was his favorite thing. I brought Barbie and Jane to meet him one day, hoping he’d entertain them, too, but he didn’t feel funny that day.
         One day my father brought home a baby blue parakeet. We named him Herbie. Daddy spent hours talking to that bird and training it on the dining room table. “Put your finger out and let him sit on it,” he coaxed us. “He won’t hurt you.” And he didn’t.  Roger and I had parakeets for years after that, way into our adult lives. His patience with pets was limitless. Even our terrier Chummy had a repertoire of tricks. People were another matter.
         Even at seven, I knew Daddy was mentally ill, besides being an alcoholic. I’m fairly certain he loved us, but his temper was frightening and unpredictable. No one dared upset him. We were his second try at family life. I learned years later through legal papers in the mail, that an earlier wife and two sons remained in his wake just as we would. I longed to know them and often wondered where they were.
         About the time our little red house in Mexico was painted and pretty, my father left. He had sat up all night smoking in his overstuffed chair in the living room watching our bedroom doors. Mother told me years later she had lain awake all night in fear. In the morning Roger and I went to school, and when we came home, he was gone. I found Mother washing dishes. She never looked up when I asked, “Where’s Daddy?”
         “He left.” Is she crying? I wondered.
         “When is he coming back?”
         “He’s not.” Why isn’t she crying?
         “Where did he go?” Maybe I can run after him and bring him home!
         “I don’t know.”
         The conversation was clearly over. I never asked again, but I cried in my bed at night begging God to tell me where he was. I couldn’t think of anyone outside our family to ask. We had secrets. Talking about Daddy was soon forbidden. There was no one left to ask but God, and I barely knew Him at all. I remember thinking, Maybe a Bible would help.
         Decades later Mother confessed hearing rumors he’d tried to reopen an old office in Detroit. Once she’d received a letter from him threatening to kidnap Roger and me. I remember leaving our house with the shades down and staying in a hotel in another city while the police waited for him in our living room. Dr and Mrs. Thompson came to visit us and brought us toys. It broke my heart to learn Daddy had actually come for us and was taken first to jail, and then to a mental hospital in Utica.  It was the best thing for him, but painful to hear. Finally on medication, he began to improve for the first time in his life, even sending Roger and me two plays he had written once for their church couples’ club. Eventually, he did well enough to work and live on his own, but mother had drawn up legal papers earlier that prevented him from seeing us again.
         No one spoke about Daddy again. It was easier that way for my mother, who suffered silently most of the time. The next fall she went back to teaching school. We all tried to act normal. Roger played basketball, did the lawn and took out the garbage, I rode my bike, played with Barbie, and helped in small ways dusting and wiping dishes. Life was quiet, predictable, and safe for the first time I could remember. Mother tried hard to make life good for us. She sewed clothing, made birthday parties, gave us big Christmases she couldn’t afford. Her light was always on when I went to sleep. She’d work until late at night correcting papers. Roger and I both tried to be good and, hopefully, make her happy. For me, it became a lifetime yoke.
         Most of my growing up was spent with Barbie, hanging upside down in trees, or playing cowgirls wearing my favorite six shooters in the woods, picking blackberries, or building forts and pretend campfires. We knew every trail in the two acre woods behind my house clear through to the hilly backyards of Church Street. It was our happy kingdom. Barb’s family eventually moved to a farm outside of town. We saw each other less often, but remained best friends for years. When she wasn’t around, I made a pest of myself with Roger and his friends until he’d beg Mother to call me inside or do something with me.
         Life could get very boring around our house. Rainy days were especially lonely.  I’d stay in my room and play paper dolls or store, or sweep off the red congoleum rug in our stone basement, arranging porch furniture and pretending it was my home, the one I’d like to live in one day. I folded napkins into triangles and welcomed neighborhood kids as guests for crackers and cherry Kool Aid.
         My imagination became a retreat into a more interesting world. It  probably saved my life. As I grew, my imagination almost took ovee. By the time I was ten, it was getting me in trouble. I exaggerated nearly everything, only I called it story telling. I liked it that way. Real life was dull and full of things we weren’t allowed to talk about, like where babies came from, and what was the meaning of life, and where my father was.
         Then in fifth grade something amazing happened, a district-wide short story contest. My teacher, Mrs. Bullock, insisted I enter it. When she mentioned the first prize was any book you wanted, I knew I wanted a Bible. Instantly, I had a story in mind about a young boy my age who loved his horse, but the horse ran away. He searched and searched for the horse. It became a chapter book complete with drawings. Of course, the horse was found and the boy was jubilant. I had no idea I was really writing about my father. I won first prize, and eventually took home a big red Bible.
         “Why did you want that?” my mother couldn’t hide her disappointment. “Why not some good book like Honeybunch or The Bobsey Twins?”
         “I just wanted it, that’s all,” I said, tucking it under my arm and disappearing into my bedroom. Sitting on the corner of my bed, I opened it gently and caressed the new pages.  The answers to life are in here. It was a holy moment.
         But where to read? I’ll start at the beginning!  I read a few paragraphs, but nothing made sense. Not in the middle, either, not even in the familiar chapters called, “Matthew,” “Mark,” “Luke,” or “John.” I slammed it closed. I can’t believe it! There’s nothing here! No answers at all! It’s a lie! God must be a hoax just like the Easter Bunny and Santa! Waves of acute disappointment turned to tears. I felt completely alone. 
         Two years later, Mother woke me for school one bright April morning. In the same voice she’d use to tell me breakfast was ready, she said, “Your father died last night. He had a heart attack. His landlady called. You’re not to tell anyone about this at school. Only Aunt Char knows.”
         I sat up straight. “Does Roger know?”
         “Yes.” I ran quickly to his room and found him still in his pajamas reading a book in bed.
          “Don’t you know Daddy died?” I asked, stunned by the casualness of the news. 
         “Yes, “ he barely looked up.
         “Don’t you care?”
         “No. Not really.” It was years before I would know of the verbal and physical abuse Roger had endured. For now, I turned away to process my father’s death alone. I learned grief cannot be buried as easily as the dead. Like snakes under the porch, grief and unanswered questions can live underneath your life and frighten you a long, long time.
         I never quite forgot my father or God, but I tried. Both I considered out of my life, less relevant with time, subjects best not talked about.  Mother was right. It was easier that way. I moved on to enjoy high school academics, a mix of achievements, music, and fun with my friends. Barbie had retreated into her own world by that time. We saw little of one another in the years that followed, choosing colleges hundreds of miles apart. I applied at only one school, the University at Albany in the capital, and chose a double major in Spanish and English. At nineteen, college friends invited me to spend an exciting summer studying in Spain where I found life far more colorful than any of my early imaginings.
         Strangely, I still felt agonizingly lonely at times. Friends were, after all, only friends. They only cared about you so much. My mother and brother were busy in their lives. I wanted more. I began to want a man. Not just a man. I wanted a Prince. Impossible. They didn’t really exist. I decided to pray for one.
         Pray? Where did that idea come from? How did anyone really believe in that? God simply didn’t answer. I doubted He was even real. Still…
         I began praying silently on my mile-long walk to class. Lord, if You’re real, show me by three o’clock. At 3:01 I’d check my watch. Nothing. I felt like a fool. Surely, He could have found some way to let me know. I prayed the same prayer again the next day, and the next, trying to give God a chance to prove Himself to me.  Day after day, 3:01 would come, and nothing happened. I didn’t need a Salvation Army band, just some small sign. I stretched the deadline to four o’clock. Nothing. Then, anytime this week.
         I became preoccupied with God, haunted by His silence. I told no one. Only God knew, if He was even real. Seeking Him became my obsession. Months passed. Then, at 10 AM one day in late spring, Steve walked into Dr. Creegan’s philosophy class and sat down right in front of me.
         He was late, too.
         The dark green leather jacket her wore that day still hangs in our closet. The English boots are gone, as is his dark hair. But the Prince remains. I loved him the moment I saw him. The greater miracle was that he loved me, too.          
Life became a romance, days whirled into months and the music lasted. It lasted through college, through our first years of marriage, through a new baby, and grad school, through Steve’s first job at Johns Hopkins as a new Ph.D., right up until that hot Sunday in Baltimore when our new friends, Ginny and Keith, invited us to church and home for dinner.  Until the moment Keith opened his Bible and asked if he could read a psalm, and I saw Steve stiffen in his chair next to me, and felt my throat tighten with some choking, buried anger.  Until the moment after Keith read aloud and I said, “May I ask you something?” That was the moment the music began to die.
         I hardly noticed it go. I was consumed once again with knowing God. Tearing through the boxes in our basement, I unearthed the mildewed Bible I’d won in fifth grade. I read it all summer, barely noticing Steve, or the joy leaving him. You could hardly hear the music any more.
         I took a new lover that fall. His name was Jesus. He was all I ever wanted, the God I’d hungered for so long. How could loving Him not be right? I hung on His words, talked of Him day and night, lived and breathed His Word, and gave myself to Him with abandon.
         I barely looked at Steve except to notice his lack of interest in my new faith.  I seldom looked in the mirror, for that matter, to see how plain I’d become. Steve didn’t understand me now. He wanted the old me back. He wanted the music again. How could I tell him I’d given it away?

God’s Love Drives My Life Every Day by Virelle Kidder

Shortly after returning from teaching at a writers’ conference, I was in a deep sleep one night when I sensed God talking to me, nudging me awake in the middle of the night.

“Virelle,” He said, “I thought you’d like to know how you really got your name, because you were wrong, you know.”

“My name, Lord? But I know how I got my name. My mother told me, and she wouldn’t lie. ” Hadn’t I just offered my standard explanation it to a group of friends at the conference? I’d been spelling and explaining my strange name all my life when my parents put their names together, Virginia and Russell. When I was twelve, my mother added an “e” because everyone called me “virile,” something that never failed to make people laugh, although I never thought it funny at all.  

“That may be what your parents thought, Virelle, but actually I named you. I just told them what I wanted.”

“You named me, Lord?”

“Yes, I named you because I love you. I’ve always loved you, since before you were born, you’ve been mine.”

And for the next twenty minutes or so, as tears rolled onto my pillow, God spoke His Word with my name inserted to tell me how He loved me.

“I’ve loved you with an everlasting love, Virelle. I formed you in your mother’s womb, I know every hair on your head, planned every day in your life. I saw your tears as a child and saved them in a bottle. I have betrothed you to me forever. You are my bride, my beautiful one. There is no flaw in you. I loved you so much, I gave me Son to redeem you.”

I can’t recall all God said, but I’ll never forget what He meant.

Until that night, nearly thirty years after receiving Christ as my Savior, I’d always known God loved me as He loved all His children, and I was the least of them. But never since have I felt so loved by God, so permanently loved and fully redeemed, so chosen and cherished. He has always had my heart, but now He had every molecule in my body, every breath, every moment.

Author Bio:

Virelle Kidder is a full-time writer and conference speaker. She has hosted her own daily radio talk show in New York's capital district. Virelle has a deep passion for providing women with relevant, accessible, spiritual materials. She served for many years as contributing writer for Today's Christian Woman and is presently a mentor for the Jerry B. Jenkins Christian Writer's Guild. Virelle is the author of five books in addition to her current title and resides with her husband, Steve, in Florida.

To Connect With Virelle:


  1. I am captivated! Thanks, Virelle for sharing your heart and giving us glimpses into ourselves.

    With His blessings,

    Jeanne Doyon

    1. Jeanne, thanks for your visit on Everyone's Story. So glad you appreciated Virelle's segment. Hope to see you again.

    2. HI, Jeanne,
      So kind of you to comment. I think of the women who impacted my life most strongly and all of them told the truth about themselves, even if it was uncomfortable. I believe that's how we love others most, by telling the truth in a way that honors God.

  2. Love your story...great book Virelle:) Thanks for sharing the real you! Your dad's struggles reminds me of my own father who was physically abusive. So thankful that God is a healer! Would love to finish the rest of the book.


    lornafaith at gmail dot com

    1. Always nice to see you, Lorna :) Shaky childhoods are not fun, nor easily forgotten. Just have to move on... toward His love. Glad you've enjoyed Virelle's post.

    2. Thanks, Lorna. So sorry about the childhood abuse you endured. Isn't it wonderful to know God isn't anything like that, ever? His love brings healing, cleansing, and peace. Thanks for writing.

  3. Loved the first chapter. I was so glad to read in the author bio that you are still married to Steve! Obviously, he got over his disinterest in the new you. What a wonderful writer you are, Virelle. Thank you, Elaine for this great interview.


    1. Tessa, my friend, a warm hello. It makes me happy to know that Virelle's segment caught your attention :)

    2. Here's the beset part, Tessa. God reached my husband's heart on Halloween night! He came to Christ and never turned back. He's now the most wonderful Christian man on the planet!
      Thanks for writing.

    3. Oops! Sorry about the misspelled word. I didn't take time to preview. Shame on me!

    4. Virelle--I loved hearing about your husband embracing God on Halloween ♡

      And, don't worry about any typos. When it comes from the heart, we tend to overlook a lot of other stuff... it took me 4 times to see what you were talking about. LOL.

  4. Elaine, Loved Virelle's story and the first chapter of her book. She clicked with me right away for a number of reasons. Would so love to win a copy of this book! pdyer3@cfl.rr dot com

    1. Hi Pat... so happy you can join Virelle and me on Everyone's Story. You are definitely entered in Virelle's Giveaway contest. The winner will be announced next Friday, August 3rd, between 4-5 PM, NY time.

    2. HI, Pat,
      If we have lots of responses, I may give away two books!
      Blessings and thanks for writing,

  5. Wow! I loved how God woke you up and spoke to you about how much He loves you. Having a life transforming experience like that is so awesome. I really enjoyed reading this post and am intrigued to read your memoir. Blessings.

    1. Hi Pilar,

      Thanks for your visit here. I'm sure Virelle will smile when she sees who is greeting her!

    2. HI, Pilar,
      So good of you to write. Isn't God wonderful to whisper His love to us? He does that for each of His children in different ways. How good is our God?
      Love to you, friend,

  6. Hi Elaine, thanks for bringing us this visit with Virelle. Virelle, I have been an admirer of your work ever since you read my non-fiction book at Sandy Cove and asked me if I'd considered writing novels! I was the sleep-deprived, jet-lagged South African. I'm still in S.Africa, still write non-fiction - book coming out October 1 - but I have written 6 novels for fun and NaNoWriMo challenges.
    I have this book and love your honesty and insight!

    1. Hello, Shirley, and welcome to Everyone's Story. I've had quite a lot of viewers to my blog from South Africa, but you're the first one who has taken the time to comment and I am so pleased. When Virelle sees that you've visited I know she'll be smiling. Thanks for brightening our days.

      I'm going to contact you in a private email as well.

  7. Hi, Shirley,
    So glad to hear from you! I'm so happy about your new book coming out! What's the title? Yes, I do remember you and your super jet lag. I am delighted to chat again here on Elaine's blog.
    Blessings to you, friend,

  8. What a great week, Virelle, here with you on Everyone's Story, and all of the viewers that dropped by to visit. You're such a great encourager. I'm grateful you accepted my offer to guest on my blog. Thanks too for your generous offer of the Book Giveaway...

    And the winner of Virelle's The Best Life Ain’t Easy, But It’s Worth It is Pat. Congratulations. Virelle and I will contact you in a private email.


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