Sunday, October 30, 2011

Letter to My Children

To my beautiful, precious children, Amara and Timothy...

It is the night before Amara's third birthday. I remember my third birthday well; my parents, big sister, and my best friends, an older couple who were our neighbors came over to our house to celebrate. The fire truck I received as a gift that year is something I still have, though a little battered at this point, 24 years later. I remember this night one year ago well, too. Your daddy and I stayed up very, very late, putting together a wooden kitchen set for you. We wrapped it in paper and took photos of you as you came out to the living room in your footed jammies the next morning, saying "wow! wow!" in your big two-year-old way. It is a memory I cherish.

Tonight, Timmy is sleeping in his bed and Amara is snuggled into my bed, waiting for mommy as she sleeps. Tomorrow, you will both wake up, and Mommy will sing "happy birthday" in an over-exuberant, ridiculously happy way, and we will spend the day smiling and giggling and having a great time together, celebrating the life of Amara. But tonight, I am sitting at the computer, and there are tears running down my face. You both have improved so much--your behavior, your peacefulness, your joyfulness, since daddy stopped living here. The transition to a "split family" home has been beyond easy for us three, but I still worry about both of you. I know that a few birthdays from now, you will begin to ask questions, and I will need to have answers. These are discussions that I never thought I would have to have with my children, because divorce was never something I even thought remotely possible in my life. But here we are. And I want this to continue to be a positive thing for you and to never, ever become a negative thing. I believe that is possible. God is our Abba Father, our Daddy, and he is a wonderful, good, and trustworthy father. He will take care of us, and we will let him.

So, my darling children, tonight I write some answers for you.

First, know that you are extremely important to both mommy and daddy. If we thought it would be better for you that we are together, we would be together. Always know that we will never make a decision that does not affect you in a positive way. You are our first priority. You were a big factor in my decision to pack us three up and leave, in fact. There were a lot of bad things going on that scared you, and that I didn't want you to see or experience. It weighed very heavy on my heart, every day, that I was allowing my precious babies to be in a home that was, at that time, so unhealthy. There were a lot of anger problems, and a lot of problems stemming from your daddy not knowing how to love. It wasn't that he didn't love you or me, it's that he didn't really know how, I don't think. He does love you, and I don't want you to ever doubt that.

I prayed a lot about leaving, and God told me that morning that it was time and we were to go. Even after that day, daddy and I tried to "fix" things. So far, many things have changed, and some I'm not sure ever will. Even if it ever did change completely though, there were things that happened that hurt me very, very deeply, and because of that, mommy and daddy aren't able to be married. You deserve and need to see a positive marriage and relationship. We are working hard to model a positive relationship for you, and if God chooses (and I really think he will), you will also be able to see a healthy marriage in the future between me and the man God picks to be a second father to you, too. Don't worry, God only chooses the best, and I am listening to him 100%. You will never be second best.

Over time, you will probably begin to hear and understand what happened before Amara was 27 months old and Timothy 7 months old, for that is when we left. I don't want you to hate your father for this. I want you to understand that I do not hate him for these things. What matters is how much he loves you and how he treats us now. What matters is that he is thrilled to be your daddy right now, and nothing is ever going to take that away. When you hear these things, know that God allowed this to happen, and that while people are responsible for their choices, they hurt other people out of their own pain. It is ok to be sad when you hear these things, but you need to also have joy. Without having gone through these things, I wouldn't be the mother I am to you, and your daddy wouldn't be the father he is to you. There are many, many good things that came out of this whole thing, and the first is that you two were born. You make every moment entirely worth it. I cannot be sad or regret marrying your father, because I am so in love with both of you, and that marriage really shaped who I am. Your parents not being together was not only a good thing for you and me, but it was the best thing that may have ever happened to your daddy. Extremely difficult, but it entirely changed how he is as a father and as a person. I am proud of him.

You don't need to ever feel like you're in the middle, or that you have a horrible life because your parents aren't "together". Divorce is never God's first plan, but sometimes sin happens and it destroys God's first plan. The AWESOME news is that God can create a second plan that is just as good if not better than the first plan, and that is what He is going to do in our lives! He loves us so much, and when he doesn't choose to restore relationships, it's because he has something better for EVERYONE involved who is obeying him! God ONLY gives good gifts to his children who are obeying him. Trust that, my dear ones.

I love you. Period. And I will protect you and raise you up to be warriors for God and lovers of people. Amara and Timothy, you are so precious in the sight of God and your parents. God has blessed our family so very much in the last almost nine months, and he will continue to do so. Trust me when I say that this is the best thing that could have happened in our are both smiling again, and you are not going to hurt again.

I love you to the moon and back, and thiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiis much,
Your Mommy

Monday, October 24, 2011

I am a survivor, not a victim

The day I left, I was terrified. The night before, he had kept me up very, very late. It was a cycle that was all to common in my household: I come home after 24 or so hours of working straight, I am tired, I get the kids in and to bed (without disturbing him, or at least trying not to), and then we sit on the couch...or he follows me around. No matter what I say or do, he tells me that I don't love him, that I didn't miss him enough while I was working. I reason with him, I am calm. My integrity is questioned, my character attacked. But I know that it's not what I say or do, it's a time thing. Two hours will need to pass before I am allowed to go to bed...

...but I am tired tonight. I haven't slept hardly at all in 48 hours. I have a six month old who I nurse and pump milk for while working, and another beautiful child who just had her second birthday not long ago. I don't even think about the fact that I would love a hug and to be held and to be told I am loved and that he is so glad to see me. I have been ignoring those needs and feelings of mine for a long time, because it's easier to think you don't actually need those things if you are scorned for asking. It's easy for me to still love him, though, and I don't think twice about gently reminding him that we could go to bed, that sleep would help, that I do love him and remind him of the reasons why he should believe this.

I am not allowed to go to the bathroom. I am not allowed to go to bed. I eventually get so exhausted that I am crying. I am scared to have him in my face, to restrain me from even walking through my own house. I am trying to keep it mentally together even though my mind is being twisted to the point it convulses and I want to kill myself. So I finally have a plan...surely, I think, if I go into Amara's room, I could sleep on the floor next to her bed and he will leave me alone so that I can sleep. Surely, he wouldn't wake his daughter up.

Once I have a chance, I make it into her room quiker than his hands or body can stop me. I am quiet, and I stifle the sickness and terror I feel inside, relieved that I will soon be able to ignore it once again and continue being happy and continue loving him. But he doesn't stop. He stands in the doorway and demands that I come out with him. Amara wakes up and is crying. He is livid with me and will not let me sleep, will not let her have peace. I have no choice but to leave the room for the sake of my daughter. So like every other time, I end up giving in and separating myself mentally from him and the situation until it's over and I'm allowed to use the bathroom and allowed to go to bed.

This time, though, we both know. We know our marriage is over, and I cry silently next to him as I pray and I hear God tell me that it is time. I let him hold me, and I grieve that this will be the last time he does, and that I cannot keep going. This was never supposed to happen to me, and surely not to my children. He doesn't ever hold me, and this is how I know that he also knows.

In the morning, I know that he still knows, because he won't leave for work until I promise that I won't leave him today. I feel so guilty for lying. And half of me hopes that I'm not lying, that he will take the van, leaving me only the car which isn't working very well and which doesn't give me the space I will need to pack us up. I beseech God one more time as I lay there, giving him another chance to give me another day, another chance that maybe everything will change. I ask God to make it clear if I am to leave; it would make more sense for him to take the van since it was working, so if he took that, I would stay. If he went in the car, though, a decision that wouldn't make sense, I was to go.

After I heard a vehicle leave, Amara and I went to the door and looked out. And I cried.

It took me a few hours to pack us up. I called my dad, crying and said something about that it was time for me to leave and that we were coming. My family didn't know what was going on. My friends didn't know what was going on. But I couldn't do it anymore. There was no choice. I just couldn't do it anymore. A friend talked to me on the phone for two hours while I grabbed clothing, diapers, food, and toys and threw it all into baskets and into the van. The longer it took, the more terrified I got. My whole body shook.

I wrote a note saying that we were sorry and that we loved him. Amara drew a picture on it. And then we left. This is the beginning of me being a survivor and not a victim.

In honor of domestic violence awareness month

Thursday, October 20, 2011

A better way to love your spouse, Part I

If your husband is not acting in a way that shows love or respect to you, if he complains, doesn't want to interact, or belittles you, then maybe you ought to look at what you are doing. Are you meeting his needs by affirming him and his masculinity verbally, offering your body to him sexually, making sure he comes home to a peaceful, quiet, and clean environment? If you aren't doing these things, then you should not expect him to be meeting your needs, for men need affirmation, sex, and servanthood to feel like "real men." If your man isn't feeling like a "real man," then you are not loving him as Christ would have you love. Take careful prayer and thought so that God will open your eyes to new ways that you can serve your man and make him feel whole...and by all means, do NOT ask him to change, as this is an attack on him. Instead, go to greater lengths to love him, and pray more for him.
...did reading that shock you? If not, then it should. This is a common idea portrayed in many of the "good wife" literature. For a variety of reasons, I do not often read books on "christian" wifedom (yes, I did just make that word up), and this is one of them. Here is what the above thought boils down to:
  1. You should not expect that your husband has the ability or that he SHOULD act appropriately regardless of the circumstances.
  2. If YOU tried harder, then he would treat you better. His actions are a direct reflection on what you are doing or not doing, so ultimately, you are responsible for his actions.
  3. You offer your body, affirm him, and surround him with peace and joy in an attempt to modify his behaivor.
Doing the named things: praying for your husband, thinking of ways to encourage and affirm him, etc., in and of themselves aren't a bad thing...but is approaching them this way the best way? Maybe it is, or maybe it isn't a sin to manipulate a person to do something. Maybe we shouldn't use the word "manipulation" and just stick with "behaivor modification" instead. Maybe it doesn't matter at all...but what if there is a better way? Is it not worth a second look?

What if, instead of doing these things in an attempt to get a spouse to act the way we want them to, we did these things out of love, expecting nothing in return? What if, instead of shutting our mouths and not believing that our spouses are capable of or required to be responsible at all times and regardless of circumstances, we held them to a higher standard, and gently but firmly reminded them that they do have the ability and are expected to act appropriate regardless of how they feel? What if we forgot about behavior modification, the reasons why a spouse may act a certain way, and focused instead on LOVING that person while also holding them ACCOUNTABLE?

...maybe marriages would change, and families would be in a better place. The truth will set you free. Don't be afraid to look at what you are doing, why you are doing it, and if it's actually Biblical or just something you have been taught.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Five Hours Early

Nine pm came early today; at four pm, actually. Five hours early. That's five hours longer tonight that I get to feel...lonely. It's hardest during the stretches when I don't work. Normally, a single parent would go to work, then shift into parent time at home, and then after parent time was done, then the loneliness might hit. Single people, I imagine, experience this upon coming home from work. So maybe today I am just feeling like a single person minus the parent part...who knows. Either way, it is lonely.

Today is day number four in a row that I haven't worked. And I have two more after this one. It's not that I don't love being the primary caregiver of my children--that is a blessing I don't take for granted...but after you haven't seen or talked to anyone over the height of 3' (if even that) in hours or days, you start to really, really crave adult interaction. The little things, like hearing about someone else's day and having them ask about yours, making dinner because there is someone else who actually prefers a real meal over peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, and relaxing after the kids go to bed instead of cleaning.

Relaxing. There is no one to touch or to touch you. There is no one to listen to breathe at night (ok, well, I do admit that more often than not lately, Amara sneaks her way into my bed toward the morning hours). If you laugh, you do it alone. There is no end in sight, no R&R that's going to bring your loved one home for a little you just keep going. You find joy in the other little things, and transform your sadness over being lonely into joy over the expectation that someday, you will share these things again. Every day, you do it again, and come up with ways to fill that 9pm lonely syndrome so it doesn't overpower you.

But, 9pm is here early. And so as I watch my beautiful babies eat their peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, as I wash little faces and hands, as I pick up toys and vacuum cereal off the floor, as I work on my projects...I sing lullabies to myself, hold my own heart, and carry my head high. I will not allow this feeling to affect me negatively. I can fight it for five extra hours today. I will not make mistakes or dwell or feel bad for myself because I am alone. I will instead count today as a blessing, because even in those five extra hours, I am accomplishing things, I am developing into a stronger and better person inside, and after all, once today and these five extra hours are over, I will be one day closer to not being lonely any more.

Love vs. Idol Worship

I am disgusted. Unfortunately, I happened across a keeper-at-home blog and read a post. Might not be such a bad thing, but I tend to avoid these sorts of writings anymore, because I feel that the mindset of a woman's purpose in life being to only serve her husband (because this is how you serve God, if you are a woman) is not only un-Biblical, but FALSE and HARMFUL at best.

Read this post, and then continue reading mine:

While I completely agree with supporting your husband, being a helpmeet, loving him through actions, etc., I do not believe that I should raise my daughters with the mindset that everything they are learning is to ultimately serve another person. God gives us talents, desires, opportunities, and abilities. Why are these girls focusing all of their time and energy on the dream of serving a man when they could be developing what God set them apart to do and begin to do it now? Is not this idea placing an idol before God, since it removes the focus of him, and forces you to look at serving him through the object of a spouse?

Instead of using my singleness to focus on being married, I want my singleness to be focused on serving God and reaching people NOW. God created me as a capable person, and let's remember that God is just as much male as he is female, just as much father as he is mother. I am not going to go study books on cars just in case I marry a mechanic. I am not going to go stock up a closet full of homemade blankets just because someday, a man might sleep in my bed with me (or, shall I say, me sleep in his bed with him?). I am not going to practice making tofu dishes just in case he is a vegan. I am, though, going to fix anything within myself that needs healing so that I can be a whole person, thus able to reach out to others NOW and so that I can have a stronger marriage LATER. I am going to earn a living to the best of my ability now so that I can take care of myself and my family NOW and also have a firm foundation for LATER. And you know what? I am going to learn things that I am interested in, develop the talents I have, and work hard to achieve the desires that God has laid upon my heart. Why? Because God put them there, not because I want my future husband to be proud.

Why am I so adamant about this topic? Loving your husband isn't harmful, after all, right? Serving him fixes things, it doesn't create problems, right? Maybe, maybe not. It happens all too often that "christian" women get so focused on being a good wife (because that's what makes us holy, you know), that they forget that God is their head more than their husband is. "Spousal worship" is the term I like to use for this. Your spouse comes home, and like he does every day, he is grumpy, complains to you, belittles you, throws something at you because you aren't as mad as he is, etc.. If you love him and are a good wife, you should just forgive him, pray for him more, and try to make the home environment more pleasant so he will want to come home and treat you respectfully...Right? If this is a regular thing, though, maybe what he really needs is a swift kick in the butt, whether that means you tell him that under no circumstances is he to treat you or your children as if they have no value (if he will respond to this, and if it's a daily thing, he probably won't), or that you pack his bags and move him out (unfortunately, that truly is the only thing that will make some people change). Are you truly loving someone if you continue to allow them to act this way? Is he not sinning? Does God tolerate sin? If you are truly a helpmeet, why do you tolerate this behavior if it is an ongoing thing (we are not speaking of the mistakes that everyone makes from time to time; I am speaking of habitually mistreating people, thus having abusive patterns within your relationship)? And are you, then, sinning yourself, because you have now begun to worship your spouse instead of God?

Be careful, is all I'm saying. Know the difference between loving your husband and worshiping your husband. Know the difference between preparing to be a great spouse and forgetting about the calling that God has for you individually. Realize that you are insulting your creator by not developing and pursuing that which he gave you the ability and desire to do.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

The Scarlet Letter of Divorce

Just for the record, I don't believe in divorce, either. And ya know what? God didn't believe in us being separated from Him, either. But sin happens. And when sin happens, relationships change. However, both God and I believe in a thing called "propitiation" which means "perfect substitute." We don't get to go back to Eden, but we sure do get to dwell with him FOREVER anyway, thanks to him creating the perfect substitute of Jesus.

So even though I might have to wear a scarlet letter of "D" for the rest of my life, and I may never stop being the victim of life's stone throwers, GOD is bigger, and he can create a propitiation for me, too. He is my protector and provider, and He. Loves. Me. Marriage is not more sacred than our relationship with God. Having a husband does not make you holier. Love. God. That is the ultimatum.

Sometimes, it is a life or death situation. Maybe you don't understand, but here's the thing: you don't need to. You don't need to understand what it feels like to be barricaded, degraded, humiliated, and be forced to do things that are despicable. You don't need to understand what it feels like to have your dignity taken away, to be denied basic human needs, to be unsafe in your own home. You don't need to understand what it feels like to not be able to even cry out to God on your own behalf anymore, to not breathe on your own, to prefer and plan your own death rather than to continue living. And you certainly don't need to understand how it's possible to continue loving, serving, and cherishing the person who does these things to you through every day and night...and how even if you are capable of loving someone through that, you cannot be with that person anymore. (and I will even tell you a secret--God weeps with and rescues his beloved from their oppressors. Try reading the Old Testament. And guess what else--he never told the Hebrews to go back to Egypt even though the Bible also says for slaves to be content in serving their masters. Just sayin'. Relationships change, and everything is not so black-and-white.).

Jesus is my savior, not my religion.

Disclaimer: the intent of this blog is not to educate people on what the Bible really says about issues, nor to defend myself. It is simply to help me process things and to reach out to others. As a result, I will probably not choose to get into any virtual arguments or defenses with anyone who leaves conflicting opinions in the comment section of this blog.

Monday, October 3, 2011

YOU...through music.

God Bless The Broken Road (Rascal Flatts)

Where I Land (JJ Heller)

Hold Me (Jamie Grace)

Boat Song (JJ Heller...yes, again.)

Lead Me (Sanctus Real)

Courageous (Casting Crowns)
Love, Me

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Dear Future Husband, I am daring to hope.

Dear Future Husband,

I am daring to hope again. There is a notebook full of letters to you that I have...but it hasn't been written in for a very long time, because I was married to someone else. Since that time, I was at first terrified to think of ever having a serious relationship, let along marriage, again. After the fear left, I was convinced that it would just never happen--that I am of little value now and that no man would think I am worth it. God has brought me to a new place during the last month, though, and I am now beginning to hope again. I realize now that if God can create the perfect substitute of Jesus dying so that we can be with him forever after original sin came into the world, then surely He can create a perfect substitute in my personal life, as well.

I don't know how long it will be until I know who you are, or even until I meet you if I haven't already...but I am ok in the waiting. My heart desires to be with no one but you, and in the right timing as well. You are the one I want, and I think you are worth waiting for. So, I will wait. (in the meantime, try to make your appearance sooner than like, 20 years from now, ok?)

The beautiful thing is that you will be getting a woman who has been in love with you for a very, very long time. I cannot wait to be in your arms, and to smile and laugh with you. I cannot wait to cherish you, protect you, provide for you, and live life with you. I cannot wait to fall asleep listening to you breathe, and to wake up by your kiss. I cannot wait to love you through actions and words...and I cannot wait to let my guard down and let you love me.

I have begun praying for you again. It was really painful for a long time to think of that, but now I consider it an honor to be lifting you up to God, and I rejoice in that opportunity. So until we meet, know that I am praying for you, and that God knows your name. I am waiting for you, and I will continue to wait no matter how long it takes. If I knew the day we would meet, though, I would definitely be counting down.

I love you.

Your Future Wife


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