About the Guest
You take care of your baby girl’s every need. But as a daughter matures, a mom must learn to let go of the reins and let God take control. Today author Cheri Fuller and her daughter, Ali Plum, look back on the days of Ali’s addiction and depression and give God the glory for what He’s done since.
Cheri Fuller and Ali PlumCheri Fuller is a mother of three grown children, award-winning author of twenty-eight books, educator, speaker, and lifelong music lover. Her articles on children, learning, and family life have been featured in Focus on the Family, Moody, CHILD, Family Circle, and many other magazines. She and her family live in Oklahoma. ALI PLUM is Cheri's daughter, a writer and songwriter, a wife, and a mother to Noah and Luke. She and her mom have weathered the ups and downs of their relationship to fin...more
You take care of your baby girl’s every need.
Bob: It can be difficult to experience harmony in a home when family members are facing challenges. That was the case for Cheri Fuller as her husband was battling depression, was starting to drink and her daughter, a young teenager, was starting to drink as well.
Ali: I didn’t drink a whole lot in high school. But when I would drink I would drink a lot and it would sometimes be blackout drinking sort of situations. I did start hiding it from the family pretty early on, and partly because that’s what I saw my dad do. I didn’t think of myself as a problem drinker. I just thought, “Oh, maybe this is something we have in common.”
Bob: This is FamilyLife Today for Friday, May 13th. Our host is the President of FamilyLife, Dennis Rainey, and I’m Bob Lepine.
What do you do when sin patterns in a mother-daughter relationship put a strain on that relationship? We’re going to hear one mom and daughter share their story today.
And welcome to FamilyLife Today. Thanks for joining us on the Friday edition.
You know, in a normal relationship between parents and adolescents there can often be strained relationships. There can often be tension in those relationships. But when you mix in some of the factors that we’ve been hearing about this week, a dad who is depressed, a teenage daughter who has started binge drinking and blacking out, the mother-daughter relationship in that environment is typically not a real healthy relationship.
Dennis: You know, TSA, when you go through airports, used to have all these green, yellow and red ratings. Well, we’re talking about a red warning at this point for this family. We have a mother and a daughter with us today who are going to share their story that I think a lot of people are going to be able to identify with.
Cheri Fuller is the mom. She’s been married for 42 years, has three children, six grandchildren. She’s an author and a speaker. Ali Plum, of course, is her daughter. She’s married, has two children. The story they are sharing today, Bob, is really one that could be true of most families who are raising adolescents. But they really had a problem with alcohol.
Bob: Alcohol was kind of a symptom of this growing distance that was happening in the relationship that we’ve already heard about this week. Cheri, I’m just curious. When Ali was in high school and she was doing this binge drinking, this blackout drinking, were you even aware that this was going on?
Cheri: No, not at all.
Bob: This was all under the radar?
Cheri: Right. It happened at a few parties. I was more aware after she came back home when she was about twenty and I actually took her to an alcohol and drug counselor that works with young people and did what I could to try to intervene, praying up a storm, praying with my Moms in Touch group. That actually irritated her more than anything, that I was so anxious about her and she was my prayer project. That really annoyed her.
Dennis: It seems to me, Ali, this is another part of the setup here. Here she is trying to fix a problem and you’re trying to flee the penitentiary, so to speak. You don’t want to be fixed. You don’t want to be helped, right?
Ali: Exactly! I was in my own process and at the time I was enjoying aspects of it.
Dennis: And here you are, Cheri, as you’re watching her kind of spiral out of control, you’re watching her move out of the house finally and you get a phone call one day and she sounds even more depressed and even more discouraged. She’s four hundred miles away. What do you do?
Cheri: My friend and I got in the car and we drove four hundred miles to Kansas City to take her out to lunch. Now, as I look back at that, I go, “Oh, wow!” I was a mom who was far too concerned yet that’s just where I was. I had incredibly high stress in my life. I was seeing a husband spiral down. I was concerned about a daughter who sounded in despair and, as Mom, I was doing the best I could, even though I was making mistakes.
You know what I finally had to realize? This was a good step for me about a year and a half, two years later. She was back at home. They were both depressed. One day I realized, “You know, I can’t do enough to change these two precious people who I love with all my heart. The only thing I can do is to let God change me.”
That day opened me to a whole different journey. I went to counseling myself and I really began to look deeply into me and God changed me. And, as a mom, that’s what I needed to do. As a women, I needed to do that, and as a wife.
Dennis: Ali, I listen to her tell the story of driving four hundred miles round trip to come visit you. It’s a mother’s love to drive that distance to try to rescue her daughter. How did you interpret that, though? Did you see it as a loving act on your mother’s part or did it further anger you and cause you to feel controlled?
Ali: That particular instance I felt incredibly loved because, at the time, I was having pretty manic highs and then I would have crashing, crashing lows and when we went out to lunch she actually really listened. It wasn’t this frenetic sort of conversation like, “How are you doing, how can I pray for you…?”
Dennis: “How can I fix it?”
Ali: Yeah, “How can I fix it? Do you want to come home?” So that was a day that she did come with a whole lot of love and surround me with it and it made a difference that day.
Dennis: I think it breaks down into three areas that you guys talk about that really are the essence of the message of how a mother and a daughter can have a duet. First of all, clarify the expectations. As you get older, as you grow up as a young lady, you have to clarify what your expectations are in terms of having a relationship with your mom. What does that look like?
It’s not like you have one meeting with your mom or with your daughter and it all gets on the table. It is a dialogue. It is a duet. You’ve got to talk about it. If one person speaks words and the other draws charcoal drawings, you’ve got to meet each other in the middle with both of those forms of communication.
Bob: And there may be changes over time. You have to have that conversation on an ongoing basis because you may say here’s what I want the relationship to be like now but a year from now that could change.
Cheri: Well, exactly. In fact, mothers and daughters are continually going through changes in their lives. I’m going through changes. As a mom, I feel like we’ve got to let go of a lot of expectations in order to just really accept and validate who they are.
I think one of the messages is trust God enough to know he’s going to take care of your daughter. She’s on her own spiritual journey and it may not look like yours but He loves her even more than you do. You can trust Him. And if you really trust Him then she’s going to see the model of “This is what my mom has lived. My mom really does have faith in God because she can even trust Him with me when I’m not doing what she might want me to!”
Dennis: In the section in your book that I think you guys really nailed, that’s the idea of letting go. One of the things that you wrote about and, Ali, you commented on this in the book, you said, “If we don’t let go, our daughters hear control in everything we do and say, even if we’re just trying to help.” So your mom could drive all the way to Kansas City and the cool thing was she didn’t try to control, she just listened.
I think, looking back as I read your book that seems to be the point when you began to let go and began to say, “You know what God? She’s your child, not just mine. But I’m going to trust you with her.” So you went to that meeting with Ali and you didn’t have to fix it!
Dennis: You just let Ali talk and, as a result, the word you just said a few minutes ago, Ali, you said you felt loved.
Ali: Felt loved. Yeah.
Dennis: That really leads to the third aspect that you talk about in your book and that is that you keep the closets empty. In other words, you forgive. One of the things you talked about, Ali, in the book, was that you didn’t know how to ask for forgiveness or express forgiveness because you really hadn’t learned it or hadn’t really grasped it as you grew up as a young lady. There can’t be relationships ongoing if you don’t know how to ask for forgiveness or you don’t know how to grant forgiveness.
Ali: I agree. I think a lot off that stems from not being able to forgive yourself of something and so then you sort of inadvertently stop communicating with words to someone else.
What I mean by that is I think for a while we were a family of perfectionists and we had such high expectations of ourselves that over time I think it flew over into each other. It was unattainable. We’re all so incredibly human. My brokenness is what led me back to Jesus physically and literally.
I was sitting in a less than desirable place in a treatment facility that, let’s just say it, wasn’t like this California posh treatment facility by any means. There were white walls and I was detoxing. I was encouraged by my counselor to go into this little chapel they had and just sit in the chapel.
It took me about three weeks into it where I finally went in there. The Jesus that I heard Bible stories about, when my faith didn’t waver yet, it was preadolescent faith I’d call it, which was actually full of imagination and it was full of vivid imagery of this Jesus who loved unconditionally. I had lost that Jesus and that was a real experience. But I didn’t revisit the truth of that experience until I was in this treatment facility.
I sat in that chapel and all of a sudden Jesus was really the one who was there. He was with us. The funny thing was I saw him in there with me like, “Oh, yeah. You do accept me. You really do. If you don’t here, then I don’t know. I don’t know if I can still do this believing gig.” But then I walked out of the chapel and down into this area when people are playing ping pong. I was in the nut house and I was a nut. All of a sudden for me, I experienced Jesus was there so real that he was like there with skin on. He had this smile on His face, looking at us, nut job addicts and He was enjoying us.
To this day, that’s where my heart connects the most, is in still remembering the most broken part of me that remet Jesus. Maybe my mom tried for a lot of years to hold a candle right by my face that I could kind of see parts of my way. Then I sat in treatment and it was all of a sudden like this beacon of light that, even though things were at the most awful probably for a mom to see her daughter not be able to be with her kids, because she’s been too drunk. Yet that’s where the beacon came and where I actually found some purpose for the very first time in my life.
Dennis: One of the things you’re talking about it, I think, the place where all of us need to go when we find a relationship that is beyond human control. It’s in a quite masterful way, Jesus Christ, brings all of us over our lifetimes.
It’s found in Matthew, chapter eleven, verse twenty-eight, these are the words of Christ. Only He could make this statement. “Come to me all who labor and are heavy laden and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me for I am gentle and lowly in heart and you will find rest for your soles. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” The problem with all of us is we get involved in these relationships and we try to fix them ourselves.
Cheri: We do. And you, know, Dennis, at that same treatment center I share a scene in our chapter, The Power of Forgiveness, that was very significant as a turnaround in our relationship and it was a very low moment for me as well.
It was in Dallas and we had a little apartment there because my husband was there doing some consulting on building. Ali had gone into the treatment center and I was just like, “Oh, what have I done? How did this happen?” One day it was raining real hard and I was just on my face on the carpet before the Lord, just asking His forgiveness for the ways I’d failed in spite of trying to be a good mom and just saying, “Lord, show me my part. Show me my part.” And, you know, He began to do just that.
A little while later I dried my tears and I drove across Dallas to the mid city where this treatment center was with just the express purpose of asking Allison’s forgiveness. I drove up and she was outside on the smoking porch with some people. She saw my car and walked over in the rain and I didn’t make excuses. I didn’t do any of that. I just said, “Would you forgive me? I’m so sorry for the things that I missed or over focusing on your dad’s problems or whatever.” She put her arms around me and she graciously forgave me. That moment of forgiveness between us was really, really a turning point into a deeper relationship.
Dennis: Ali, I’ve got a question for you and I have an assignment for you, alright? But the question is, your mom just told a story of when she asked your forgiveness. Was there a moment when you went to her and asked her to forgive you?
Ali: Yes. It was actually in writing the book. One reason why that took a while, I think, is my mom would often take responsibility for things that were my responsibility. When she stopped apologizing for other people’s mistakes then that’s when, all of a sudden, I started looking around like, “Whoa! I’ve been doing some damage here!”
Dennis: And you took responsibility for what you’d done?
Dennis: Okay. I’m going to move you a step further away from where you’d been in terms of letting your mom take the rap to turning the tables here. The tables are going to get turned around something you already have heard growing up. It’s one of the Ten Commandments. It says, “Honor your father and your mother that it may go well with you.”
What I’m going to ask you to do right now is turn to your mom and I want you to give her a tribute. It’s too bad you can’t use a charcoal pencil to do it. Unfortunately I’m going to ask you to use some words to do it to the best of your ability. The word honor means to put it heavy on them, to esteem them and value them. Even though your mom made some mistakes, there was a mother’s heart coming through toward a little girl growing up and a bigger girl and her adolescent years and then a young lady going off on her own. Can you do that?
Ali: I can do that.
Dennis: The microphone is yours.
Ali: Well, Mom. I think that you’re the strongest woman that I know. You’ve taught me how to be a woman by your life, by the way that you’ve lived it and not just by words. I think words have failed us before when we’ve tried to connect. But I just want you to know that your life inspires my daily actions as a mother.
By embracing me in my darkest hour and by praying for me all those years, even though I acted so annoyed, I’m thankful for every prayer because there could have been a lot things happen in my addiction. So I really do want to say thank you because you’ve been patient and you’ve been loving in the process of being unloved by me when I have, on purpose or on accident, not been loving to you as my mother and not honored you.
You never stopped believing in me or my brothers. Thank you for loving my dad and for really keeping the family unit together. I’m really, really thankful for the grandmother that you are to my boys. I’m really proud of the work that you do and that I’ve always seen you do with the widows and the orphans.
And even through our relationship turmoil one thing you might not know is that inside, deep inside, I’ve always said I want to be just like my mom when I grow up because you have been Jesus with skin on to so many people for so many years. So, thank you.
Cheri: Thank you, Ali. That means the world to me. And you mean the world to me.
Bob: You know, what we hear the two of you expressing to one another even here is reflected in the book that you have written, The Mother-Daughter Duet, which really opens up and shares a lot of your story that you’ve shared this week.
I want to encourage our listeners to go to FamilyLifeToday.Com. Look for the book, The Mother-Daughter Duet, by Cheri Fuller and Ali Plum. Our website is FamilyLifeToday.com. You can also call if you’d like more information bout the book. The toll free number is 1-800-FLToday, 1-800-“F” as in family, “L” as in life, and then the word TODAY. Ask about the book The Mother Daughter Duet when you call us and we can make arrangements to have a copy sent to you.
Now, a quick reminder that the month of May is a strategic month here at FamilyLife. We’ve had some friends of the ministry who are aware of the fact that for ministries like ours, summer months tend to be a time when donations start to slip a little bit. Folks get busy with other things. We understand how that happens. These friends wanted to make sure that during the summer we wouldn’t have to made adjustments because there was a fall off in donations.
So they agreed that this month they would match the donations that we receive from listeners on a dollar for dollar basis up to a total of $750,000! That’s a huge opportunity for us but, in order for us to take full advantage of that matching gift, we need to hear from as many listeners as possible between now and the end of May. So we’re asking you, if you can today, to go online at FamilyLfieToday.com or call 1-800-FLToday. Make a donation on the internet or over the phone. Let us know that you believe in the ministry of FamilyLife Today and you want to see us stay financially strong over the summer.
Again, when you make that donation today, your donation is going to be matched dollar for dollar. So if it’s a twenty dollar donation you make, we’ll get a $20 donation from our friends. If it’s $50, we’ll get another $50. If it’s $100, another $100. That’s the way it works up until we get to that total of $750,000. We do hope to hear from you.
Again, you can make a donation online at FamilyLfieToday.com or you can call 1-800-FLTODAY and make a donation over the phone. Either way, we want to say thanks so much for your support of this ministry. We really do appreciate.
We hope you have a great weekend. We hope you and your family are able to worship together this weekend. And I hope you can join us back on Monday when we’re going to talk about a season of life that will come for every mother at some point. It’s the season when the last child says “See ya!” and the nest gets empty.
You may be years away from that happening. But trust me the years go by quick and this is a good time to start thinking about that chapter in your life. We’ll talk about that on Monday with Barbara Rainey and Susan Yates. We hope you can be here for that as well.
I want to thank our engineer today, Keith Lynch, and our entire broadcast production team. On behalf of our host, Dennis Rainey, I'm Bob Lepine. We will see you back tomorrow for another edition of FamilyLife Today.
FamilyLife Today is a production of FamilyLife of Little Rock, Arkansas.
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