My September Liturgy

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Since 2014, every September feels almost liturgical to me. Some of this is simply from my mind remembering and reflecting—I am an expert at reflecting—and part of this is from memories that pop up on my Facebook news feed. Trying to explain why I mentally go through this ritual might seem dark or strange to some because I am remembering the night I confronted my (now ex) husband, but for me it is a remembrance of who I was, how I’ve grown, and where I am today—that night, although emotionally catastrophic, was a catalyst for positive change. I don’t simply remember September 19th, I remember the time leading up to that date and the time after it; I remember the year of the confrontation (2013), as well as the previous and following years.

An example that came up recently was a family visit to Butterfly Wonderland on September 15, 2013—just four days before that *poop*-storm rocked my world. It’s ironic that we were among the butterflies because the butterfly is a symbol I had deeply connected to, so much so that I had gotten one tattooed on my lower back just three months prior (see cover photo).  Seeing that Facebook memory of the visit to Butterfly Wonderland reminds me of who I was at that point in time: living with mostly-suppressed emotional turmoil, unwittingly choosing to believe lies, enabling, and battling severe anxiety (which was mild PTSD). I also didn’t know how to bring my heart and my brokenness to God…but I was about to learn.

butterfly wonderland 9.15.13

In my September liturgy, I notice Bible verses and quotes I posted prior to that night in 2013, and I see those in the context of who I was. Then I think back to her, the me I was right before that time and say, “Girl, all that theology is about to get real. What’s left is what you really believe (because everything else is just what you say you believe).”

I look back to the days, weeks, and months after, and I see pictures of myself—no one knew, except my pastor, that I was barely keeping it together; I was like a volcano about to erupt from the pressure of holding so much inside. Everything felt dark, sad, and too heavy to bear. I didn’t know how I would survive and just wanted God to take my life…but then I thought of my daughter—she needed me.

God was faithful and helped me through that time, slowly and gently. I was happily busy in Young Life as a leader; my fellow leaders were like my family, and I needed all of the support I could get. By the time September 2014 rolled around, God had provided good for me. (In fact, I had a happy distraction every year from 2014-2017 on September 19th, and I didn’t work a normal day—or at all on that day—until 2018.) Young Life had a leader retreat around this time. I sobbed while journaling, processing my life up until that point. It was also in a forest, and I love forests. Not long after that, my daughter and I went to Louisiana for my dad and stepmom’s wedding on September 20th, with a light and lively rehearsal on September 19th, complete with a Nerf War set to James Bond music after we practiced the ceremony; I also gained four more step-siblings, which added to my joy (The bags in the picture contain our surprise Nerf guns and ammo, a gift from the soon-to-be bride and groom).

In September 2015, I attended two weddings. The first wedding was for a former student set in another forest. It was beautiful and early. The second wedding, on the 19th, was for a former Young Life student.  This became a group road trip to Southern California, and we stayed in a nice hotel—the wedding was right on the beach!

Each September has been an upward spiral of increasing emotional and spiritual health. God has scaffolded His intense closeness with me: when I was at my lowest, I most vividly sensed His presence and frequently saw His messages of encouragement to me. As I got healthier, there were fewer events, trips, and obvious little notes from God. I went through counseling during this time (fall 2014 through late winter 2016), and a few months after I finished counseling, I enrolled in Sustainable Faith’s School of Spiritual Direction.

On September 19, 2016 I technically worked, but I went on a field trip with my freshmen students to a university in the forest. It was like a little trip for me, and the forest always relaxes me. Then, a few days after that, I attended my first Sustainable Faith year-one module; it was the first time I shared my story in person with strangers. I felt terrified, loved, and heard.

In September 2017, I felt a bit more on edge. My dad had successful heart surgery, but I was nervous for him nonetheless. I took off on the 19th to be with him and my stepmom; I was grateful to be able to spend that time with them, even if it was in a hospital. Shortly after that, I had my first, year-two module for Sustainable Faith. Compared to who I was the year before, I felt significantly more at peace inside. I was blessed to have a cohort of friends with whom I had bonded and grown in Christ.

Today is September 19, 2018. I was reflecting on finishing this post today, and the reminder of this day’s personal significance felt so much more intense that I even accidentally wrote “2013” when I wrote the date on my board before school this morning; one of my students pointed it out in second hour. For some reason, this year has been more emotional as I have reflected on my annual September journey. Perhaps I’ve been more emotional this year because I have fruitlessly gotten my hopes up a few times in the last few years; I am still waiting on God to fulfill His promise to me that He made some time in September 2013, after that fateful night. I thought His promise was going to be fulfilled in specific ways over the years, and I have been wrong each time. In spite of that heartache, I am in the best place I have ever been. I am thankful for how God has continued to heal and grow me from September to September, and I can truly echo the hymn, “It is well with my soul” as I conclude this September liturgy.

September

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When Your Undoing Remakes You

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September 19, 2013 was my watershed moment, although I didn’t know it at the time; I even later got the date tattooed under a butterfly tattoo I already had on my back, which represented my hope for God’s renewal of me.  This day was not my only trauma in life, but it embodied the day my life switched tracks.

Some of you know my story because I either told you, or you read about it a couple of years ago in my post, “My Unexpected Life.” For those of you who don’t know my story, here is a summary of it. At the time of my watershed moment, I had been existing in my (then) marriage for many years, not allowing myself to grasp that I was living with a porn-addicted husband who preferred men. On the night of September 19, 2013, I had the opportunity for a non-negotiable confrontation when my (then) husband’s phone received a sext while laying face up on the kitchen counter as I was standing right next to it; he was out of the room. With an immediately racing heart and shaking hands, I nonchalantly picked up the phone, walked to where he was, and whispered in his ear that we needed to talk upstairs “Now.”

That moment sent me quickly into a dark hole that took me years from which to emerge. I was face-to-face with a pattern that, for about thirteen years, I couldn’t acknowledge existed, even with plenty of evidence. It was not my first confrontation I had with my (then) husband, but it was the only one, up to that point, where I held my ground and wouldn’t accept any legitimizing stories that were used to try to excuse his behavior. I didn’t know how to operate in this new way; I felt completely alone, afraid, and many times, despairing—even though every ounce of me wanted direction and intervention from God.

That was when I felt the most desperate in my life, and I think it was my sheer desperation that God used to begin to change me. I already had a relationship with God, but everything in my life was operating at my lowest common denominator. I desperately didn’t want to be alive, living in that nightmare (even though I didn’t want to actually kill myself). I desperately wanted to hear from God, to know what to do (Divorce was not an option I was even willing to consider for months and only after speaking with a counselor and a few others). I desperately wanted to protect my daughter from emotional damage resulting from divorce, or from living with parents who had an unhealthy and then bad marriage. I desperately wanted to be done confronting, but that was not to be the case. I desperately wanted help.  And then I desperately wanted to express how I felt, to be heard and known; I was exhausted from hiding what was inside of me.

It was all of this desperation that slowly drove me to begin to live differently, to start to become healthy.

I started finding more trusted and safe people to talk to. I never realized until my life fell apart that I lived in almost complete isolation. I wasn’t a hermit (My ex is an extrovert, so I didn’t have the opportunity); I never revealed my heart to people until the end of the marriage—I don’t even think I was aware I was doing that.

During the immediate aftermath of that evening in September, I quickly realized that I was an emotional wreck. I started reading books, we saw a marriage counselor four times before he recommended divorce, and a couple of months after I told my (then) husband to leave, I began a year-and-a-half of counseling.

In this time, I became closer to God than I had ever been in my life, and more importantly, He seemed even closer to me than He had ever been. I really started to recognize His “still, small voice” because I kept running into the same messages repeatedly without even trying; this lasted for about one-and-a-half years. For example, one repeated message was from Psalm 46:10, “Be still, and know that I am God.” I would have to find my journal that documented all of the specific details, but I ran into it six times in about a week. Someone read it at a Bible study. A parent of one of my students gave me a card, and on the back was that verse. Another friend of mine invited me over for tea, and my tea “happened” to be served in a mug that had that verse on it (I documented that on Instagram).

Another, more attention-getting example of God interrupting my daily life with goodness happened a little over a year after that September confrontation. I shut my phone off and on, and when the screen reloaded, I had a different lock screen with a picture that was not saved in my pictures—“my phone” changed the lock screen by itself. It had the following verse in Isaiah 46:4, “I am He. I am He who made you and I will carry you; I will sustain you and I will rescue you.” I’m pretty sure that if God can speak through an ass (It’s in the Bible), then He can change my lock screen to reassure me that He IS taking care of me in my (then) hellish life; I also documented that lock screen on Instagram.

Within a few months of stopping counseling, I was invited to learn more about Christian spiritual direction; it was an interest meeting for Sustainable Faith’s School of Spiritual Direction, and one of my friends had just completed her first year of their two-year program. It was a perfect fit for me. I witnessed the difference spiritual direction made in my friend’s life; she was calmer and no longer living the frantic life for God. So, instead of waiting a year (my initial thought), I signed up to begin that fall. I sensed that this was the next stage of my healing journey, and in retrospect, becoming a Spiritual Director was almost a side-note to my healing. As I healed more, I felt called to spiritual direction because God was using my pain to help others, and I had a greater capacity to listen without judging people because I now had a story that others could easily judge.

Today it’s been a few months since I completed my own two-year journey in Sustainable Faith’s School of Spiritual Direction. I learned about listening to God and others, instead of simply listening in order to have something with which to reply. I practiced vulnerability with my cohort; we each shared our own stories and ongoing struggles, something that I needed, but it terrified and embarrassed me to show what felt like filthy stains on my life.  I recognized some of my own emotional blind spots and compulsions when we delved into the Enneagram. I learned that conversations are the foundation on which relationships with God and others are built.  I also saw that there are predictable stages in our journey of faith with God; my stage was easily recognizable because it looked like a wall. But most of all, I realized (and am still realizing) just how loved I am.

I lost my life and the trajectory I was on since birth, but the life I gained in return had a substance and richness that was never there before. My life with God gained a depth that I only had glimpses of previously, and I saw that God really does work everything for good for those who love Him; I saw for myself what it meant to give thanks in all things and to rejoice in suffering. These aren’t part of my personal statement of faith; I lived these. I am far from perfect; if you heard me cuss, especially in prayer, you’d probably call me a hypocrite. I just know who I am and Whose I am.

Fences and Stillness

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It’s so much easier to live behind a wall or fences, not to be seen or known. It’s my go-to defense mechanism. While I do need a lot of alone time, there are times when I pull away because I’m hurting. Besides coping with hurt, my life has been getting quieter. Although I like quiet, it can at times feel empty; I feel like I’m always processing life with God. I recently told my friend that it feels like removing layers of wax off of something—God removes a layer, and there’s still layers below it; it’s so slow and painful.

I recently participated in inner healing prayer at my most recent module in my Christian spiritual direction training. I told my cohort (who watched my prayer process) that at the beginning I imagined  a giant blanket towering high over my head with me hiding behind it because I didn’t want to be seen (even though I volunteered for this)—I have a difficult time allowing myself to express my emotions in front of others. However, it was worth it being vulnerable with them; I was able to deal with a deeply painful area of feeling abandoned by God on the night I confronted my (now ex) husband a few years ago. In my time of prayer I saw that Jesus was holding my hand in that traumatizing and terrifying moment. After the prayer, I felt more settled and relaxed, instead of feeling alone and abandoned as I always had in that memory. Those feelings of abandonment had painted some more recent events with the same color; the sense of abandonment felt just as real. I anticipate being more able  to cope now that some core emotional memories have been dealt with—another layer of wax removed.

Overall, in the last several months my life has been in a state of transition: I had to put down my old (and sick) dog in February—she was 14, and I had had her since she was 6 weeks old; I bought a house last spring, which makes me feel more physically settled and has solidified my single mom life, instead of feeling like a nomad who is constantly moving; I dated a man I re-met and connected with over the summer; I moved churches; my cousin became my roommate; my work content/contexts have changed; I began Christian spiritual direction training, and the 2016 election was exhausting on multiple levels.

Some of those transitions have simply been change (and I like routine), but others were deeply painful. I’ve discovered over the last couple of months that when things feel too painful, I retreat from my heart into my mind, and then I detach from my emotions until an emotional nerve is hit, at which time my emotions leak out. During those times of detachment I can’t write because I can’t access my heart; I’ve walled off my emotions from myself.

The pain of my change is real, but the slow realization of God’s tender love for me is also real. As a Christian, I know God loves me, but I have learned that our reactions reveal what’s really going on inside of us. Susan Scott (in Fierce Conversations) refers to this as the “official truth” versus the “ground truth;” “ground truth” is what someone believes as revealed by their actions, while the “official truth” is what someone says they believe, but reality (or their actions) contradict this. My ground truth revealed I didn’t believe God truly loves me, and I still wrestle with making it part of lived belief system.

Reflecting back throughout my year, I know that my changes have produced good. I feel physically settled because of my move and because of a gradual introduction of quiet, as well as more healing in my life. I’m learning the difference between my needs and my distractions; I’m learning to just be, to be still and know that God has this. Psalm 46 speaks of God’s peace in the context of chaos: natural disasters, tumultuous seas, war, nations falling, and in that, the psalmist learns that God is with us, that He is a refuge. In these similar circumstances in our lives (all of which originate with change), we can rest in the peace of God when we know who God is—the One who can stop wars, enemies, and tyrants; the One who provides refuge; and the One who helps us.

Psalm 46 (NIV)

“God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea, though its waters roar and foam and the mountains quake with their surging. There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God, the holy place where the Most High dwells. God is within her, she will not fall; God will help her at break of day. Nations are in uproar, kingdoms fall; he lifts his voice, the earth melts. The Lord Almighty is with us; the God of Jacob is our fortress. Come and see what the Lord has done, the desolations he has brought on the earth. He makes wars cease to the ends of the earth. He breaks the bow and shatters the spear; he burns the shields with fire. He says, ‘Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth.’ The Lord Almighty is with us; the God of Jacob is our fortress.”

 

A Little Looking Back to Look Forward

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A Little Looking Back to Look Forward

Today I had an appointment across town, near where I lived when I was married for the first three years. After the appointment was over I drove by my old townhouse. It still looks dilapidated, as do the other properties in that association. The units still have bars on the windows and doors on the first floor. The asphalt is still crumbling around the complex. The exterior wood siding located on the back side of the units by the parking is still falling apart with paint peeled or peeling. The entryways, which no one really uses, are differing shades of cream or tan. The place still exudes hopelessness because of its look of disrepair. I thought to myself, “How did I live like that?” It felt symbolic of my crumbled marriage, which was unknowingly falling apart before it ever began. I didn’t like living that way, but it was what I had. Prior to us purchasing the place, I should have voiced my opinion more strongly, “I don’t like it here. It’s falling apart, it’s ugly, and it feels unsafe.” But I didn’t. Typical of how I usually operated then, I just went along with it, even though I didn’t like it.

It was good to revisit that place. It’s been almost sixteen years since I lived there, and being there reminded me again that, that chapter of my life has closed. I felt both sadness and relief. The sadness was for what was—what I endured, what I battled, and what could have been but never was. The relief was for the reminder that I am no longer imprisoned; it’s good to be free.

After driving through there I even drove past my childhood home. I haven’t driven by it in many years. The neighborhood I grew up in has significantly changed. The houses look a lot older, and some look really run down. My own childhood home looks quite altered as well. The exterior was redone after my parents moved from there when they were divorcing, and sadly the trees in the front yard are gone. I remembered where different friends lived, where the community pool was once located, and wondered how my immediate neighbors’ houses looked inside. (I could have stopped by because I still know them, but I needed to get home before my daughter was ready to come over.)

All of the looking back at my childhood and the majority of my adulthood encouraged me to look forward. I wonder what God has for me? Where will I live? Who will my husband be? What will my life be like? Will I ever get to the place where I don’t have to work so that I can just write and edit? I don’t have the answer to any of those things, but I know that God does and that He loves me deeply. I know He has plans for my good and to restore the years that have been covered with a locust-type of destruction (Jeremiah 29:11-13 and Joel 2:25-27).

My Unexpected Life

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This is the most recent part of my own personal story. I feel more terror in posting this one just as I did with my last post! When I’ve shared it with people, there is either a silent shock and awe, or a companionship of the fellow broken. Lives lived with lessons learned are best shared so that others can benefit too.  I wish I had this to read about 2 1/2 years ago because I felt like the only person going through this when I was living it. It felt like pure hell. I’m not sharing this in order to shame anyone or to get attention. Being vulnerable makes me embarrassed, but the benefits of possibly helping others is worth the emotional cost. Honestly, I feel compelled to tell it. If you get to the end of this and disagree with my conclusions or beliefs, then I’m glad you at least read it to the end. I am not any person’s judge; that’s God’s job, and He didn’t qualify me to be Him.

My Unexpected Life

I originally shared this with Dena Johnson in the summer of 2015. With my permission, she posted it on her blog, Dena Johnson Ministries in October 2015. Since then, I’ve made minor edits and additions. I pray that God gets the credit for any good in this: that it gives hope to those walking in similar or related circumstances, that it strengthens those who need it, and that it encourages others to be vulnerable with “safe people,” to quote Dr. Henry Cloud and Dr. John Townsend. Be blessed.

That Christian Kid

I was that Christian kid you might have gone to high school with. I often wore the Christian t-shirts, and if you liked to debate Christianity or just ask deep questions about God and life, I was passionately up for it. I remember dreaming in my sophomore year of one day marrying a youth pastor, having at least a couple of kids, and working in ministry. Growing up, my parents argued a lot, so I knew what I didn’t want in a marriage. I even bought Finding the Love of Your Life by Dr. Neil Clark Warren; I devoured it because I didn’t want to make mistakes in  one day finding a husband (once I was old enough to get married).

Implied in my life’s dreams was NEVER be a divorced woman. I didn’t want to be someone who gave God and Christians a bad reputation. I tried to always be happy in spite of a lifelong battle with depression, and deep inside I wanted to help others feel happy because I cared and desired to show people Jesus in me. When I had struggles or temptations, I fought them or subconsciously pretended like they didn’t exist. Along with that, I had a big distrust of my feelings, not that I am advocating letting your feelings be your guide. I just didn’t think my emotions had any good use; they were just a distracting annoyance to me because I’ve always been “too sensitive.”

I got married in my early twenties. My then husband, Marc (not his real name) was not a youth pastor, but he seemed to want to follow and serve Jesus. From the beginning, we had an odd relationship, which I thought stemmed from us being polar opposites in personalities and in backgrounds. He’s an extrovert who is blunt and very sociable. I’m an introvert, opinionated but reserved, and I’m sociable when I’m comfortable (and until it wears me out). Marc came from a nominal Catholic family from another country, and his parents divorced when he was fairly young. He also had a rough past, seemingly trying everything. By contrast, I came from a Christian home with parents who constantly fought (later divorcing when I was in my twenties). I became a Christian when I was eight, and I wanted to follow Jesus–especially from about middle school on. On top of that, I am typically an overly cautious person.

Marc and I were “just friends” for quite a while, and our college pastor teased us because we were “just friends” who always hung out. When I first got to know Marc, I learned he had a crazy past that wasn’t too distant, but what I didn’t know was that he was still harboring secrets. My pastors and I really thought he had a life change because God is very capable of drastically changing people’s hearts, which changes their lives.

What the… (insert Expletive here)!

Marc and I were married just over fourteen years when our divorce was finalized at the beginning of 2015. During the course of our entire marriage I saw in Marc what I now know as signs of a porn addiction. I also later found out Marc was gay. During my marriage, I saw things I didn’t want to see, and no matter how many times I stumbled across the porn or related things, my mind wouldn’t acknowledge that Marc had a serious problem. Like a true co-dependent, I wanted to protect him from getting in trouble. I assumed each incident was a one-time slip up because that was the lie that he fed me, and I didn’t want him to be misperceived; I didn’t want to negatively affect his ministry. Marc was a chaplain, had at one time started studying to become a pastor, led small-group Bible studies, and for a few years together, we were leaders in a couple of college ministries. I took all of Marc’s addictive symptoms on as my responsibility, when it was my husband who had a problem; he was the one who had secrets. I didn’t know what to do with what I saw, so I subconsciously set out on a campaign to bash myself: I was a bad wife who had unfounded trust issues; I was being paranoid. Why couldn’t I just trust him?

My own parents’ divorce emotionally set me off, living in a state of constant anxiety and depression, with an emphasis on anxiety; I had no coping skills for handling issues that felt too hard to deal with. On top of my parents’ divorce, I had a few years’ experience of living in my façade of a marriage. (Remember, I was denying reality 24-7 that my husband had a problem, even though his behavior showed otherwise.)  I ended up seeing a doctor so that I could get on prescription anti-depressants for my anxiety, which I took for several years.  By the spring of 2012, I took myself off of my medication. I lost about twenty pounds, and I slowly became aware of me-–the me I tried hard to ignore. I was struggling with sexual temptation: men started noticing me after my weight loss. My husband had stopped intimacy with me in 2003, so most of our marriage was without intimacy and was therefore very unhealthy. I read in the Bible (1 Corinthians 7:5) that Satan used a lack of intimacy in a marriage as a source of temptation, and I was in a full-on battle that I truly thought I would lose. God provided a way out, just like He promised in 1 Corinthians 10:13. I even told Marc that it wasn’t right and that I was really struggling, but that changed nothing with him. So, life continued. My daughter, whom we adopted in 2010, was my reason to keep going in more ways that I’m probably even aware of.

Not long after my own battle with temptation, I came across the porn that led to my BIG confrontation of Marc. I was standing in our kitchen and happened to see Marc’s phone on the counter. There was a pornographic picture in a sext (sexual text message, if you don’t know what that is). My heart was pounding so hard that I truly thought I would die of a heart attack. My hands were trembling. I felt sick, and I knew what I needed to do. In private, I quietly and firmly confronted him. I told him I didn’t want any excuses or stories this time. He started crying hard and admitted he had a problem. He also told me he was only attracted to men.  I told him I would be willing to work with him because I knew God could do anything, and I knew firsthand that no sexual temptation was too big for God to help us overcome. I really thought he would be willing to fight hard.

During the months that followed, as I waited, hoped, and prayed that he would do WHATEVER it took to fight this, I miraculously met a couple of Christian women whose husbands had previously been much deeper into secret gay sex addictions than Marc (porn, a hidden long-term relationship, one-night stands, etc.). These husbands overcame and chose their marriages over their addiction (not simple or easy battles). I even read Desires in Conflict by Joe Dallas. I also read a lot about sexual addiction and felt shocked and angry that my pre-marital counseling didn’t talk about this. I was willing to go down this road with Marc, and we even went to a Christian marriage counselor who recommended divorce after only four sessions. I was torn up inside. I felt extremely concerned for our daughter, and I wanted to make absolutely sure I did everything I possibly could to save our marriage. I felt so guilty too–I made a promise, a vow, and the divorce was clearly going to be from me. Marc didn’t want to divorce, and he wanted to keep all of this a secret. Aside from a few trusted advisors who were my godly counsel, no one knew until I finally confided in a fellow believer at work. It was SO GOOD to finally tell someone what I had been grappling with, and it was truly the grace of God that my sanity lasted while I lived with all my secrets. It has been a slow process of sharing my story with others.

About nine months after my initial confrontation it became clear that I wanted to save the marriage more than Marc. I came across some movies that were only about drugs and sex that were still being watched. I realized that Marc would never win this battle because he wouldn’t remove everything that fed his addiction. So, I finally asked him to leave and gave him two weeks.  I told him we needed to divorce because we were not both fighting for our marriage; we were going in opposite directions. That was the most gut-wrenching decision of my life because I was so scared for our daughter–that her life would be forever screwed up, and I felt at fault because I was asking for the divorce.

The End is the Beginning

A few months after I asked Marc to leave, which was several months before my divorce finalized, I began seeing another Christian counselor. I felt like a broken mess and a shell of a human being. I remember telling her that I had this image of what my heart was like: it was this glass heart, and my ex had taken a sledgehammer to it and smashed it to bits. All I had to show for myself was this shattered heart, and I felt I had nothing left I could offer God, let alone people. My emotions were raw all.the.time. I’m pretty good at keeping it together, and I could hardly hold back tears on most days; on the days when I couldn’t control my crying, I had to find a place to go cry. Thankfully, I had people who supported me, and through this season of life I have learned that I need supportive people in my life, that my fierce independence is not healthy.

Then there was the emptiness of not having my daughter on days when she went to her dad’s. It was like this huge void. My life wasn’t supposed to be like this! I was supposed to be married to a Christian man who served God with me; we weren’t supposed to be divorced; I was supposed to have an in-tact family—my child should be with me, and we were all supposed to be a family, a healthy family. But it wasn’t like that, and unfortunately, the healthy part was never there. I kept thinking, “This isn’t what I signed up for, God!!” I was raging inside. I was angry at my ex and at God, but I didn’t give up on God (another mercy of His). God wanted my honesty, so I owned it. Counseling helped me to work through my anger with Marc and with God over a period of many months: we prayed about it, I journaled extensively about it, we talked about it, and we even met with my ex-husband so that I could practice some honesty along with forgiveness. And this was just the beginning of my healing. Counseling uncovered more than I initially went in for, but it has been a worthwhile process, although the most difficult of my life.

 

Helpful Resources:

Get the Facts (on porn) from Fight the New Drug

JoeDallas.com (author of Desires in Conflict)

Safe People by Dr. Henry Cloud and Dr. John Townsend

The Story of Dan and Cathy Davis (I “happened” to meet them because I was local.)

Surviving Adultery and Divorce (various posts from Dena Johnson Ministries)

10 Signs of Porn Addiction from Covenant Eyes

WifeBoat (a website for wives who’ve been betrayed)

 

To the Child Who Has Been Sexually Abused

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I realize this is not a light topic, and I’m terrified to post this. I’d rather just be safe, and not talk about uncomfortable things, but I choose to do the uncomfortable anyway because I want to live differently than I have for my entire life. I want to look at the hard things and speak the stories we’d rather leave unspoken or hidden. I want to acknowledge the darkness, instead of pretending it doesn’t exist, and then I want to shine the Light. I wrote this piece a few weeks ago, and it is part of my story.

To the Child Who’s Been/Being Sexually Abused,

You are not alone. I know you need to know that because sexual abuse makes you feel completely alone. How do I know this?  I, like you, was sexually abused as a child. And because of it, I grew up feeling like I had been abandoned. Even as an adult I struggle with feeling that way sometimes.

I want you to know that you are not your body–it’s just a body, but your body isn’t who you are inside. I grew up secretly thinking that all I was good for was my body and that all men wanted was sex. But it’s not like that. You and I are valuable because God made us worth something; our bodies don’t add to it–we have no price tag attached to us because we are truly priceless. Psalm 139:13-18 says, “For you (God) formed my inward parts; you knitted me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works; my soul knows it very well. My frame was not hidden from you, when I was being made in secret, intricately woven in the depths of the earth. Your eyes saw my unformed substance; in your book were written, every one of them, the days that were formed for me, when as yet there was none of them. How precious to me are your thoughts, O God! How vast is the sum of them! If I would count them, they are more than the sand. I awake, and I am still with you” (ESV Bible).

For a long time I was mad at God. To be honest, I still have moments when I get mad at Him. In my heart I’ve raged, “How could You let me go through that?!” He didn’t yell back; He just listened. One day, after about a year of counseling, I was remembering one of the times I had been abused as a child, and I saw that God was with me. He was protecting me in the middle of the abuse, and He was whispering to me, “I’m here.” That was the first time I was able to look back at my abuse and not feel abandoned by God. I think one of the reasons He let me see that was so that I could encourage you. You are not alone. God is with you. He will bring you through this, and if you trust Him, He promises to use that evil to bring good into Your life. I think some of the good that came from my childhood sexual abuse is to be able to stand on the other side of my abuse, to hold out my hand and tell you, “Hold on. Don’t give up. Trust God, and He will help you get through this. You are not alone. There is HOPE.”

~Christine

Note: The abuse was someone outside my family.

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Measure 3 of Floating to the Ground

Standard

I have to first thank my friend/colleague/fellow writer, Karen Creel, for giving me feedback and letting me bounce ideas off of her.

Here’s what I’ve been thinking about the story in progress: in Measure 3 of Floating to the Ground, there’s so much more back story needed. For the earlier parts of this story, there’s much shifting I likely need to do in order to show the consistency of the feel I want this story to have. I need the level of detail I’ve previously given in order to understand the setting, however, I need to go about it differently and probably place those details in different areas in order to consistently evoke the tone I want this story to maintain. I’ve known from the beginning how I want this story to end, and I know that (at least for now) this is to be a short story, but I have so much reworking to do (not on the emotional elements—those STAY!). Long-term, it would be fun to publish this story (when it’s done) with another short story that I wrote 20 years ago; I promised myself that I would revise and edit that one this year, but I might do my Floating to the Ground revisions first.

If you need to catch up, the earlier parts of Floating to the Ground are as follows: Prelude, Measure 1, and Measure 2—all tagged on this blog in previous posts. Enjoy!

Measure 3

The other night a metal crashing sat me up in my bed. My heart was pounding, and I was gasping for air in the darkness. I couldn’t see anything except for a mixture of moonlight and the dim light of the street lamps from behind my grey curtains. I started breathing more slowly once I realized I had been sleeping; the noise was only in a dream, and I was in my room, instead of in some strange place. Immediately, I thought of Norman: I thought of us; I thought of this place, and I thought of his leaving, which was now only a week away. This was the fourth night in a row like this. It’s the same scenario each night—a crash wakes me up a bit disoriented and scared until I can remember that I’ve been sleeping; it’s of course dark, and then I think of him.

The clock said 3:07. I wondered if Norman was sleeping, or if he was disturbed at night too. I could have asked him sometime; it’s not like I didn’t have the opportunity. I was afraid. Maybe if I brought it up, then he might start his crazy ideas again of how he could (illegally) stay. It wasn’t worth it.  So, I guess this was my little secret, for now.

This keeping-stuff-back seemed mutual though. I couldn’t explain what it was, but I knew Norman wasn’t telling me something. He didn’t seem upset or unhappy with me, but he wasn’t completely there when we were together. There was a freedom missing when he talked to me, like he was holding back.  Just yesterday we were discussing what he was supposed to expect in his first couple months of The Assignment. It was all very typical: trainings, meetings, more trainings, and then the alternating flight practice (morning or evening, depending on the squadron’s routine). The more he spoke about it, the more his eyes looked like he was being involuntarily pulled away from me. It was like part of him was reaching for me, and yet another part of him wouldn’t look me in the eyes, as if deep inside himself he was pleading for my help without speaking.  It was strange because Norman was never like this.

There were only two days left. Darkness was settling on me like a storm descending on land. Even though Norman was still with me, I was increasingly aching to be with him. He came over after work just so we could be together and talk. When I opened the door, it was so satisfying to kiss him because we didn’t have much longer together. We sat on the couch and started talking about The Assignment again briefly.

“I just met with my commander. There’s been a change. I couldn’t bring myself to telling you sooner.” That must have been why he seemed like he was keeping a part of himself from me, I thought.

“What do you mean, a change?” My voice shifted. I couldn’t shield him from my fear in time before it slipped out.

“Confed. 7 wants our squadron on a two-year assignment.”

“But I thought you had to serve within your age window?

“I do.” He slowly explained. “But, we have to start our service within that window. So, even though I’m twenty-one, I have to serve as long as my initial deployment needs me…even if it exceeds the end of my window of service that I signed up for.”

“But that’s not how it works,” I whined. As I said it, I felt like a baby, but I was upset.

“It doesn’t matter how it has worked before. They change the rules, and we can’t question it.”

“I see…” I needed more time to process this, and I didn’t have time. I was upset and shocked and outraged. This wasn’t fair; they couldn’t just change the rules of service. Hearing this one was like the boxer’s blow to the head that sends him to the ground, finishing him off for the round. “And there’s nothing you can do? You can’t fight this? You can’t request permission to terminate your assignment when you turn twenty-two? You can’t change your assignment window?” I knew it was useless, but I had to ask.

“No, I already asked. ‘Orders are final. The good of the Confederation is final’ is all I was told. It was understood that there were no exceptions and no further questions were allowed. This isn’t what I want, Marcia. This isn’t what I planned for when I signed up.”

Norman quickly shifted the conversation to our future, after The Assignment. His eyes looked at the floor, focusing to the left and then quickly to the right.  He said, “I think we should get married when I get back.” As he spoke, his eyes radiated, while his voice both invited and spoke with assurance. Even though he had recently seemed a bit closed off, his heart was completely open with me in this moment. “No matter what happens, I don’t want to have to walk away from you again, ever.”

“Of course I want to marry you. You’re my closest friend. I love you.” I was excited and in despair. There was no question I wanted to marry him. But I was also scared for him and scared for me if I lost him.

“I love you too. I’ll have more than enough money to take care of us after The Assignment. I don’t want to wait till then, but there’s nothing I can do.” The surety of Confed. 7’s decision was like the closing of a chapter. My allegiance was to Norman, to my family, but not to my Confederation and not to The Dominion.                          ~Marcia