Wounding with 80 Grit

“When people hurt you over and over, think of them as sandpaper.  They scratch you and hurt you, but in the end, you are polished and they are all used up.”

Even though we have the ability to walk away from the people in our lives that cause us pain, some of those relationships cannot ever be completely ended for various reasons.  Because I share 3 glorious children with their father, that relationship – or some loose interpretation of the word, will always be in place.  I have chosen not to speak ill of him in their presence, a practice he chooses not to reciprocate.  Over time I have learned I cannot control his actions any more than I can control the direction of the wind.  What I can control, however, is my reaction to the choices he makes.  This is not to say for the briefest of moments that when word gets back to me that he’s spoken harshly of me in front of them, disparaging me once again in their eyes, that the all-too-familiar feeling doesn’t sweep that tiny mound of confidence I’ve started to rebuild right out the door, faster than I can possibly rebuild it.

We do this dance – the tearing down and rebuilding – on a regular weekly basis now…the only problem is he is completely unaware of the angst I go through each and every time.  Oh, I am quite certain he is expecting some ‘direct hit’ – just like lobbing his move in “Battleship”…B-6…HIT!  But the personal attack on myself I do privately – and he is certainly no longer privy to the score I keep, a much more gruesome account of battle scars, personal shortcomings, life-long ineptness and the like.  At the end, it looks much more like a replay of ‘Shark Week’ than ‘Battleship,’ as I huddle in the corner assessing the damage, trying to determine which areas can withstand another hit and which need attention – STAT!

The lingering question, mostly to myself, is why I continue to log unknown conflict time, particularly when the causalities remain so costly to my well-being.   If he chooses his actions, and I choose mine, why do I continually choose this self-inflicted kill-shot each and every time?  What is my reward?  Otherwise, why can’t I simply let him say and do what he is going to, and let that roll off me without a care?  Obviously somewhere inside the core of me, I must be gaining some twisted prize from the battle with this demon, over and over again…right?

And then I think about that quote…the sandpaper disappears, and the one who’s hurt is polished.  It reminds me of one of my favorite Bible verses, 1 Peter 1: 6, 7:

‘In all this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials.  These have come so that the proven genuineness of your faith – of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire – may result in praise, glory, and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed.’

This relationship – it’s really just another trial, another test of my faithfulness before God.  And my reward, not for the self-deprecation, but for staying the course, is worth more than any gold here on earth.  So the next time I start worrying about what he’s saying about me, to whom…I just have to remember the truth of this verse.  My real reward is with Jesus – always has been…always will be.  No words of man will ever change that fact.


When a Mind Breaks, It Don’t Break Even…

No matter how cautious you plan to be, heartbreak happens.  It can happen between the best of friends, between parent and child, between family members, and between lovers.  I don’t think we ever set out to hurt or be hurt – anyone who’s experienced that wince of pain caused by the loss of love would more than likely attest to that.  But the heart, as complex of an organ as it is, is relatively simple in its emotional make-up.  We store all our emotions there, and when you stop to think about it, that’s quite a vast capacity.  Thinking just about the supposed ‘seven major emotions’ that psychologists categorize, we’re talking about fear, contempt, disgust, anger, sadness, happiness and surprise.

When we lose our relationship with someone we care for, no matter the context of that relationship, we generally feel loss.  There can be loss of trust, as in a friend who you feel alienated you and your life that you entrusted to them; a loss of innocence, like when a child crosses a line you never would have imagined would be crossed; a loss of intimacy, when a partner betrays your faith or simply denies your feelings altogether; a loss of confidence, when you deny yourself and doubt all that you know to be true.

Regardless of what the cause of this loss, the angst that follows must be allowed to process, in due time.  Denying ourselves and our emotions is both detrimental to our emotional health, and harmful to our attempts to rebuild who we are as individual beings.

I recently entered the dating world after a 25+ year departure.  Let me simply say this:  dating over 45 is ridiculously difficult, and dating in 2015 – absurd.  Apparently there is no more simply meeting someone, enjoying their company, and wanting to spend more time with them.  Most everything is done online now.  I don’t know if you’ve seen the commercials – there must be 50 dating sites, at least – one for every different group you could imagine…ethnic groups, religious groups, age-based groups, farmers, you name it…there’s a group.  The premise is all the same…girls and guys trying to meet each other, via picture and profile, with or without a membership fee involved.  So before you even get to the date, you can be rejected any number of times, by a mere ignoring of your message, to a nasty message sent to you, to a nasty comment on your photo – it’s the screening before the date that knocks your feet right out from under you.  Back in the 80s, that happened at the bar, and at least you had a drink to wash down the sting.

So I started with the Christian group, thinking I’d have the best results there.  That site was a joke!  It was basically non-Christian guys looking to ‘hook-up’ with good girls to see what they could get away with.  I figured that out in less than a day, lucky me!  I previewed a couple more sites and ended up on one that seemed ok, but regardless of where you land, you certainly have to keep your guard up at all times.  I spent a few days hanging back, seeing what the guys were all about – like 80% said they go to the gym every day (as if!); many have photos of their cars (oh, my racing heart!); an incredibly high amount have photos that include their exes (yes, you read that right!) – and I came to the conclusion that many guys my age have no idea what women want, period.  I don’t know whether to have a tantrum or cry over this information…the jury is still out.

I did, however, meet someone and we started to chat on the website.  He really was great – he said all the right things, and truly meant them.  I felt comfortable with him immediately, and I trusted what I felt.  We talked for a few days, then agreed to meet for our first official ‘date.’  No pressure…yeah, right!  He was perfectly charming, our conversation was enchanting, and I didn’t want to go home.  The weather was bad, and he texted just after I got into the car to tell me to let him know I got home alright – how sweet!  I smiled the whole way home, despite the treacherous driving.  We texted for over an hour after I got home – again, very sweet.

The next day, though he was busy helping out a friend, we managed to plan catching a movie in the evening.  I was giddy just knowing I would be seeing him again – I felt like I was in Junior High all over again – what would I wear, did my hair look ok, what would we talk about.  Never once did the huge smile leave my face.  We had arrived early which allowed for time for some great conversation.  Just as the lights went down, he reached over for my hand – I thought I was going to melt right there in my seat…so much better than Junior High!  The movie was amazing, and the company even better.

We saw each other two more times that week, and each day the conversations we so sweet and tender – extending into the evenings until we were both too tired to talk any more.  I was being as cautious as necessary, but also feeling so safe and secure – it was unbelievable how well we were getting along.  He met one of my friends and her husband when we went to see a band at a local bar – I was really nervous and acted quite out of character, but he quickly reassured me that everything was alright.  We were enjoying simply spending time together – we didn’t have to be doing anything special – just being.

He was happy as well – he communicated how he felt – he couldn’t get the smile off his face either, and things were going well.  He worked hard, and I gave him his space, perhaps popping in via text midday to say I was thinking of him or to ask how his day was going.  He responded as time permitted, and this worked out fine.

And then suddenly, something changed.  To this day, I have no idea what happened, and that is what really kills me.  Being the logical person that I am, just about the worst thing you can do to me is to walk away with no explanation – nothing.  I am left with self-doubt, self-loathing, self-abuse. I simply cannot process the not knowing.  My mind goes to every horrible scenario possible…and then it splits in two.

On my birthday, nonetheless, I got a ‘snippy’ message from him.  I had an idea something had shifted, but he didn’t really say anything was up.  I was busy that day, and decided as the day was drawing to a close, to reach out and ask how his day had been.  No answer.  Next day, a little bit of chit-chat, but certainly not status quo.  I decided to ‘put myself out there’ in words – I do that quite a bit – and often I give everything away when I do.  I asked him to just be real.  I said I trusted him, and that he could trust me.  And the response I got was more than I ever bargained for.

The next day he said we needed to take a break.  I don’t personally own the Guy Code book, so at first I didn’t really know what that meant.  A break?  From what exactly?  Me texting him during the day?  Oh…from me…I’m a little slow sometimes.   I responded curtly but not ugly, then stopped before I did get ugly.  Then I processed for a little bit.  Then I can back with something ugly.  Then I processed some more.  Then I apologized.  Then I went to therapy…a lot of therapy.

I gave him the space he asked for, though I’m still confused of what exactly happened.  After the allotted time, I texted him again, asking if he could call so we could talk.  Nothing.  So I called after a day.  Voice mail.  Then I waited the acceptable amount of time for him to respond, and I texted that obviously we were done, but if he could give me a clue why, I could process this a whole lot better.  Nothing.

I cried every day for the first 9, no, 10 days.  I can’t say my heart is broken – I did feel something for him – I definitely could have felt something.  My brain is broken, most certainly.  And I am left in a heap once again.  What did I do wrong?  Why can’t he even answer that for me?  Am I that annoying he can’t speak to me one more time, seriously?  How is this ever, ever going to work?

The worst part is I sent a message after the phone call, telling him I wouldn’t bother him again – could he just tell me what happened.  And then two days ago, thinking I’m moving on finally – I text him again.  At this point, I’m sure he thinks I’m a stalker.  I’m sure that’s why he dumped me…future stalker in the making.

So I’m reluctantly returning to the website – where of course I see his profile every time I log on.  They are so very kind to tell you who the perfect matches are for you.  Little do they know that some of those ‘perfect matches’ will snap your logical brain if you’re not careful.  Guard your hearts?  Guard your minds, too.

I’m Fine…I’m Running as Fast as I Can

“It’s only when we admit our un-fine moments that people can actually get to us to help us.”

I am a stubborn human woman.  I know, it’s shocking to hear, but I have learned over the course of my life to be fairly self-reliant.   I don’t ask for help for much of anything, and when I do, I have to be darn near death.  What I have learned, in times when I expected help to be there, was that people will always fail you.  People will hurt you, disappoint you, even crush you if given the opportunity.  So why on earth would I want to place myself in a position where I am actually asking for support, needing another person to raise me up?  To me, it just seems like you’re asking for trouble, and I certainly don’t need more trouble in my life.

And then I began this transformation…this recent self-reflection of who I am, where I’ve been, and where I’m headed.  And I’ve realized over the last few years that some changes need to be made if I want to achieve the happiness I desire, with the people I want in my life and stability, all wrapped with a nice big bow.  So I’ve been trying these changes on for size, one at a time, and seeing how they work for me.  You see, no one gets to be who they are by accident.  I’m not this stubborn, independent woman by accident, but absolutely by situation, dictated by the events in my life that demanded I either adapt or die.  For the most part I like who I am, and strange as it may sound, I wouldn’t change most of the events that happened in my past – they all occurred to mold me into who I am today.  Sure, do I wish I could be who I am without those traumas…well, yeah!  But I understand that God’s purpose behind each and every trial we face is to mold our character, not to harm us, and to make us reach closer to Him.

But I’m also learning that how I coped with these events just a few years ago might have functioned perfectly fine then, but for where I’m headed, they are not quite so functional anymore.  And I want to change – which is the biggest victory of all.  So I’ve been working very hard to acknowledge the areas that might need tweaking, or a small sledgehammer, and have been eager to work on those areas and test them out.  But even with all this work and support from a phenomenal therapist, there are times I feel like that small, scared little girl trapped in the grown-up body, cowering in the corner, alone and afraid, just wanting someone in my corner, saying they are with me and talking me through what’s happening.

That was this past Tuesday.  Court…again.  Sometimes I think I’m so grown and strong, but court…lately it brings me to my knees every time.  The atmosphere, the environment, the reason I’m there – it crushes my spirit faster than anything else I can imagine.  I knew before I went I should bring moral support – but felt embarrassed to ask someone to subject themselves to that ugliness.  After all, it’s my junk…I loathe being there, why would I ask a friend to endure what I can barely stand?  But that morning, I heard God telling me to simply ask – and so in obedience, I did just that…at 8 am.  I sent a group text to my friends – the ones I know I can count on…and in God-like fashion, they responded.  Why it continues to surprise me, I should really be ashamed.  Two separate friends rallied, while those who couldn’t sent their words of encouragement and prayers.  I felt so very loved and protected in those moments – it brings me to tears again just recalling the texts.

At court, ‘they’ were there first, but knowing I had support on the way, I held my head high.  I didn’t feel anxiety as I usually do.  I was receiving texts of support all the while until my first dear friend arrived.  And we just chatted and passed the time – the LONG time – visiting and forgetting where we were, which made me so at ease.  Then my 2nd friend arrived, and it was like a party of privilege, with just us 3 as the only attendees.  We joked and laughed and had a great time – almost completely oblivious to where we were.  God was truly with us, and I was certainly blessed.

As the business at hand finally began, it was unproductive and difficult, as predicted, but I wasn’t afraid or uptight.  I conducted myself in a pleasant manner, as I usually do, and his actions spoke for themselves, as they typically do.  When we were finished with the Judge, I simply walked out as if ‘they’ didn’t matter, and left, emotionally tired but not defeated.  There will be more battles to endure, but I am now confident that if I actually trust to call on my friends, they will rally to that call and be there for me when I need them – I just have to choose to let them.

God never intended for us to live this life alone – John 15:13 states…

Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends.”

Here God is referencing more than a friendship, but a love relationship between us and Him, and in turn, between us and those around us.  His greatest command to us is to love one another; when it’s the hardest thing to do, when they don’t ask for it, when they hurt you, when they don’t talk to you for years & years, when they laugh in your face, when they try to kill you, when they destroy your reputation – there is no stipulation on loving one another.  Jesus loved prostitutes and murderers – are we under any less of an obligation than He was?

So I’m trying a radical new approach – praying for ‘him.’  There was a time he loved Jesus, when he wasn’t so lost, when he knew the right choices to make.  I decided a long, long time ago not to carry around hate – it’s useless, heavy baggage with no purpose and it only impacts me.   I’m certainly not going to start now.  Lay down my life?  Not quite yet, but I’ll keep up with the prayer and let you know how that works out…

This Old Home

As the weather toys with our emotions, some days teetering ever so close to spring and thoughts of blossoming crocus, walks around the block uninhibited by huge mounds of snow and actually seeing grass in my yard again and then tormenting us once again as the thermometer plummets to artic numbers, blowing winds and more threats of that horrible white stuff, I cannot help but push forward to the joys that spring offers.  The newness of everything:  new growth, as in the flower bulbs that have patiently waited underground all cold winter long for their time to burst forth; new projects, as the sunlight unveils all that the winter had hidden in its darkness, now revealed and needing our attention; new opportunities, as the kids school year turns to its final leg, and choices for the next year are being put into place, big life decisions are being made, growth is being plotted and measured, all without skipping a beat.

One of my favorite parts of warmer weather and spring is tag sale season – strange as that sounds.  Another opportunity for purging the old, clearing out your things no longer viewed as valuable, and a chance for someone else to find their treasure in what you’re willing to part with.  I like both sides of that equation for various reasons – over the 12 years I’ve spent in this house, I’ve amassed a LOT of stuff…things that haven’t been touched since we moved in here, things I’ve outgrown, not just in size, but attitude and phase of life, things that definitely need to move along.

I also like to visit other people’s sales.  What they view as junk, worthless or close to it, can often have such rich meaning to me at the time.  Many things I own previously belonged to someone else before I owned them.  I like the story that comes with a piece.  None of my bedroom furniture matches – never has, and there’s a story behind that.  My living room furniture has changed more times than I can even remember, and that’s saying a lot!  I have this amazing hope chest that I got at a tag sale – real cedar – was able to talk to guy down to only $20…I don’t think he really knew what he had there – again, a treasure in the eye of the beholder.

So say you found this painting at a sale you visited.  To you, it might look like a pretty ordinary painting.  But the frame has some potential – nice wood, could probably be redone and if nothing else, you could always use the frame for a better painting or a photo you have at home.  The seller, not seeing the same potential you see, is only asking $5 for the painting.  Do you leave it there, or bring it home, knowing the value you see?

Recently I’ve been struggling with my value and my worth.  I know I thought I had it figured out, but here’s the thing:  apparently once you struggle with self-doubt and self-loathing, you ALWAYS struggle.  So I went back to my Source, my Rock, my Daddy…finding it ridiculous how long it takes me to return to my beginning for what I need.  In the silence of my prayer today, I thought of where I would be in a year from now.  Immediately God placed a word on my heart:  RESTORATION.  It’s so appropriate for me, my home, and my family.

Just like that painting from the tag sale, God sees the value in us, especially when we cannot see it in ourselves.  He paid the ultimate price for us, no questions asked, and brought us home.  Then the real work began.  He each day is stripping us down, removing all the layers of old junk, garbage piled upon garbage, looking to find what He saw in us all along.  He shows us each and every day that we are a new creation in Him – but we have to be willing to listen to what He is saying, and able to see His vision – both of which are very difficult alone.  We need His eyes and His ears as a constant reminder of His unfailing love for us.  He is always with us – when we doubt, when we feel alone, when we feel unworthy, when we hate ourselves – He is waiting to remind us WE ARE ENOUGH.

Restoration – the act of renewal, revival, reestablishment.  That’s about right.  I certainly want to be renewed – I think no matter where you are in your life, we can all use that.  I believe I’ve been revived over the last few years – revived from a life that was headed in a hopeless direction, now with its sails set toward smoother waters.  Reestablishment…not in this world, no thank you.  I’ve seen too much, been through too much, hopefully grown too much too.  But I will certainly will be obedient, and if God calls me to reestablish myself, physically, or in any way He commands, I will listen.  I am His painting in the rough…and maybe now, finally, I am ready.


Damage takes on all shapes and sizes, forms and colors.  From the impact of a high speed collision on the highway between two vehicles, twisting metal upon metal with the air filled with burnt rubber and cries for help, to a young teens first broken heart, slowly tearing in two, silently at first, then louder and louder until it seems as if the whole world is an audience to this ever private pain.  The one thing in common is the wake of collateral left behind…rubble to be retrieved, pieces to be replaced, parts to be mended.

An interesting fact about the recipient of damage is that only that individual knows their own unique pain – no matter how similar their scars might appear to the next.  ‘Until you’ve walked a mile in my shoes…’ the old adage is so ill-equipped to compensate the level of heaviness we feel as the weight of the world is loaded upon our shoulders, shifted haphazardly across our human frames, until it comes suddenly crashing down, bringing us to our knees, shaking once again our very foundations.  It is in these moments we challenge why we are chosen to bear such burdens, why we are given this volume of pain, and still we have the option to question the very core of what we believe as our purpose on this planet.

I am no stranger to the pathway of damage.  Until recently I thought my pathway a more singular pronged voyage…one of childhood trauma at the hand of my father.  I believed I had long since come to terms with that journey, not cured from all the wakes and swirls, but by shear will and determination, choosing victorious forgiveness over hatred, and paddling onward.  But my dance with damages is much more complex than I had ever realized.  Those childhood traumas were merely Act 1 in a great tragedy that would continue to play out for the next 20 years.

The next interesting fact about someone who suffers damages is that their self, their internal being, is shattered into hundreds of tiny parts…and rebuilding is not only optional, it is THE most painstaking task you will ever undertake as an individual.  When pieces of your self break apart, you lose your way…your roadmap.  There is no IKEA instruction guide for rebuilding your self…your self-worth, your self-respect, your will…it’s as if someone has hit the ‘reset’ button, and just as you begin to get your footing up under you, the ‘reset’ is hit once again…over and over and over again.  And you keep trying to stand back up, day after day, hour after exhausting hour, but you can never quite get your balance…and nobody seems to notice you falling down, down, down.  And finally, all at once, you decide it’s so much simpler to just stay down…and not expect too much, of yourself or the rest of the world.

In my attempt to convince myself that I could simply walk away from my childhood trauma, I married a sailor – a outwardly good man who said he’d take care of me and love me and we’d be happy forever.  And we moved 1000 miles away from everything I ever knew.  It sounded fantastic in theory.  But I was lying on the ground…and now I’m not certain if he didn’t notice, or if that was part of the plan all along.

So this man who said he loved me helped me get my footing once again, and for a little while I was able to stand up straight.  After all, I was fairly intelligent, strong enough to withstand my childhood and not let it swallow me whole, and young.  I worked a full-time job for several years, we saved to start our family, his family accepted me seemingly as one of theirs…all systems appeared to be a go.  But that bag of shattered pieces I was lugging around…it developed a large hole.  This good man I married…he wasn’t perfect…but he kept saying he loved me, and I was grateful.  Grateful?  Serious red flag.  But I was busy with this bag of pieces…I didn’t have time to collect flags too.

Then so slowly it was almost invisible, his family – the one who welcomed me with open arms – began to turn.  I thought maybe I was imagining it…a snide comment here, a whisper there…but when an outright demand that he divorce me because I couldn’t deliver babies was made, it became obvious to even the most oblivious of onlookers.  The first punch had been thrown, and I was down:  bleeding, wounded and alone – because here, family starts with a ‘D’, not an ‘f.’   And another red flag

Time went by, and our little ‘family’ recovered, until the next predicted blow.  The gauntlet had been thrown down, and the only choice was to accept the challenge – play the game the best way I knew how to manage – or accept defeat…which really never was an option.

So enters another interesting fact about those who suffer damage:  we can be a shadow of our former selves and not realize the difference.  About this point I believed life was wonderful.  We had 3 beautiful children – gifts from God, despite the numerous challenges they faced.  I saw this as my personal mission – to educate myself; access the best education they were entitled to; accept nothing ‘less-than’; give up ‘myself’ in pursuit of their needs.  But herein laid the problem…I was already gone…’given up’ years before – to men because I wasn’t worth purity or love or wholeness; to food because when you’re overweight, you are all but invisible to the world…the exact feat I was trying to accomplish…invisible people cannot be hurt…they are indestructible; to the needs of others, because I wasn’t worthy of fulfillment – my sole purpose was to complete everyone else…all the while I was an empty shell.

It’s amazing how long you can roam the earth completely and totally void.  Oh, I had my faith…but rather than being my foundation, I now think Jesus was my stopper…avoiding the last few drops of my soul from seeping out.  In the worst of my moments, I would cry out – for I still had the wherewithal to know where redemption lay…and then another crushing wave would wash over me – cutting the chain on that stopper shorter, and shorter, and shorter…until only a few links remained…and then came the rust…

Two years ago my stopper was yanked up for the final time, eroded and eaten away by the vile ugliness of this world, and I was literally drowning in a sea of doubt, inadequacy, relentless sorrow, gnashing of teeth, anger…emotions I had kept UNDER that plug for my entire life…erupting like fire from a cannon.  The man I thought was there for me – the one who said he’d never leave me…he fell apart…literally right in front of my face, all the while blaming me for his demise.  “Our marriage is a farce,” he said…his words still singe my ears even today.  22 years of heartbreak and holes, rebuilding and rebuttals, mirages and muck boiled down to that one stark statement he finally mustered the courage to say.

At first I was bewildered, disillusioned to all my life had become, been about, ever was.  Stepping out from the shadow, I saw this opportunity for what it truly was – a chance at true happiness.  No, I had never ever broken my vows to him, but I was certainly just going through the motions of a relationship I now considered a prison.  I had been so very lost in the ideal of what ‘we’ were supposed to be – and he certainly had no qualms about sharing his disdain at my inability to metamorphosize to his expectation of who I should have been by now.  I was not the woman he expected or deserved – according to him.  I failed him in so many ways, and he never fell short to remind me, constantly, each time scarring my spirit more and more, with words that still haunt me when I close my eyes.

Another sign of damages:  We give away pieces of ourselves all the time; many times in large irretrievable chunks.  The utter irony of the situation was that while what my father had done to me so many years before left lasting effects still rippling today, what that man had done, with full faculties about him, all the while claiming his superiority over my father, was so much worse.  He used those weaknesses to his advantage – those areas of insecurities, those damages – and made them his target.  He knew just where to strike to inflict the most damage – the most lasting pain – the most crippling blow.  It was as if he were shooting fish in a barrel…I gave him all the ammunition he would ever need…and he ate it up, bite after savory bite, until he was satiated with the tools he could use to effectively dismantle the tattered remnants of my shell.

His methods were ingenious, considering I had not really considered him my intellectual equal.  This, perhaps, was the beginning of my downfall.  My Achilles ’ heel, as it is, is that I loathe being viewed as stupid, less than the net worth of my intellectual match.  I have a God-given brain with much potential, and when I am not viewed in that worthy potential, I feel insignificant and small, devalued immediately, always self-loathing.  He knew this weakness – as does anyone who is significantly close to me – and he used this area to keep me small and beat down.  Not physically; no, let me be abundantly clearhe never laid a physical hand on me.  That would have been beneath both he and I.  I would not have tolerated that injustice for one single moment – not after my childhood…not for myself…not for my children.  Had that threshold been crossed, I would have instantly found the courage to stand, gather my children and leave that situation without question.  No, this life we led, this clandestine nomenclature was so much further left of center, it made this fiction so much more palatable, day after agonizing day, year after debilitating year.

But what he didn’t know was that his statement, his attempt to mortally wound me, was my saving grace.  That day, though I didn’t realize it at the time, I was given the key to my very soul back.  And that day I started a journey – back from somewhere I never believed I would have been found – a place of darkness and despair, loneliness in a crowded room,  constant humor to hide my pain, a place where I  didn’t even recognize myself any longer.  Standing here, 2 years out, I don’t even know who that person was – I just know had she not gotten out, somehow, some way…she would have died there most certainly.

I remember the exact moment I knew it was time to walk away.  He had thrown down his challenge, and returned to his summer camp, complete in the knowledge that I would obviously come to my senses and adjust myself, submit to his demands and get on with our lives as he had envisioned it should be.  Once the initial shock wore off, I remember going to the movies with some friends from church – again, I do not believe in accidents, and this was yet another example of God at work – to see ‘Unstoppable’ by Kirk Cameron…just a really awesome movie.  I was entranced by the message, when a particular passage spoke directly to my heart, as I felt God was telling me what I needed to do next with my marriage, with my life, with myself…basically the reference was to Adam and Eve, and how God had created Eve as a gift to Adam, with the sole purpose for him to ‘cherish her above all others’ and ‘protect her with all his being’…these statements struck me in the core of my being, and I was openly weeping in the theater.  No one – ever – had cherished me, let alone him.  And as for his promise so many years before to protect me, as I stood at the precipice of this shamble of a relationship, the choice was crystal clear.

No longer was I to devalue myself to give him glory.  No longer was I to become less to make him more.  My God told me, in His word, that I deserved to be cherished, and if that meant walking alone until glory, so be it.  My children needed to see me as the strong woman I knew I could be.  They needed me to stop the verbal barrage of abuse that existed constantly in our home.  I was not honoring anyone, let alone God, by continuing in this marriage.  So I finished what he didn’t have the courage to do – I filed for divorce.

Freedom from bondage, I don’t care what kind we’re talking about, is so liberating.  You can be bound with your mannerisms.  You can be bound by your thoughts and actions.  You can be bound by the company you keep.  You can be bound by your line of work.  And you most certainly can be bound by a marriage, mired down by the controlling actions of one spouse.  After the dust settled, I went to him and actually thanked him for making that first step – for speaking up – even if his intentions were ill-guided.  I would have stayed with him forever.  I am a believer in marriage.  I do not, however, believe anymore in blindly loving someone because they tell you to.  And as strong as I am in Christ, I know without Him, some people’s damage cannot be repaired if they are not looking to be helped.

I saddle a lot of my own damage, and am working diligently to repair those scars – learning new coping mechanism to replace the ones that might have worked when I was a child, but currently are not as effective.  I use humor a lot – as a defense and a strategy.  I am learning to replace anxiety about situations I cannot control with strategies on how to manage those behaviors, but most importantly I have learned why I manifested those behaviors to begin with, and with that knowledge, I have learned to give myself a break.  I am above all others my own harshest critic, and have realized if I can give myself a break now and then, this life is going to be a lot easier.  I am learning to relax…something I don’t think I ever really knew how to do.  And seemingly the simplest, but certainly the hardest…I am learning that I do not have to carry others baggage…and the knowledge and freedom that comes with that comprehension is so incredibly amazing!

I am not whole and healed – but I am truly on my way.  And now that I see the value in the work that I am doing for myself, I will not stop until I have completed this most important work…for the betterment of me.  Because we share these 3 incredible children, forever, we are bound in a ‘forever’ relationship of sorts.  But I have chosen to not participate in his anguish, his bitterness, his self-absorption.  While it is exhausting at times to be ‘the grown-up’ for the sake of my children, I will forever fill that role as they need me to.  And when and if he is ever ready to successfully participate in a co-parenting role, I will enter into that with him, eyes wide open.  But at this juncture, and with God ever by my side, I will continue to do the work I need to do, model the behaviors I need to for my children, and help them grow into productive adults who hopefully can have wonderful relationships of their own.

The more people I talk to, the more I realize that no one gets through childhood unscathed.  I truly thought because of all I experienced as a child, I would do so much better for my children.  I believe we all desire that for our kids.  But in the end, we are all fallible.  We struggle to do a little bit better job than our parents did with us.  If we’re lucky, I mean really lucky…our kids won’t end up as damaged as we were.  We can only do the best job we know how…and pray.

Daddy’s Hands

Cigarette smoke still gives me an instant migraine.  I don’t think that’s an accident.  I’ve gotten migraines since I was 8 years old…the exact age I was the 2nd time my Father started molesting me.  I remember it as clear as it was yesterday.  He was sitting in the chair at the kitchen table.  I was in my pajamas – the ones my Mother had made for me…hunter green…now my favorite color.  T-shirt material, ribbed edging, bloomer bottoms…proper.  He called me over to sit on his lap.  I don’t remember where my Mother was, or my brother for that matter.  But I remember ever single word my Father said to me…8 years old…38 years ago.  I was so pretty…don’t get fat like your Mother…a little rub here…a squeeze there.  But all Daddy’s did this, right?  Right?

I remember the day I finally told my Mother what had been going on with my Father…1 month shy of my 18th birthday.  I had just come in from a date with a boy I’d been seeing.  My Mother was sitting on the couch, and I was sharing with her the good time I’d had.  She was sharing too…that things weren’t going so well between her and my Father.  Her words…’I don’t know about your Father and I.’ I followed with, ‘I don’t know about Dad and me either…’  I instantly wanted to suck the words back in…but I couldn’t.  Her look of terror said it all…”What do you mean?”  “Nothing…”  I tried to play it off…but it was out…no unringing that bell.

The 10 years in-between are a blur of confusion about what was happening, why no one was helping me to make it all stop, growing into a teenager with feelings and emotions that conflicted with everything that was happening TO me, wondering toward the end if I was actually still a virgin or if my Father had taken that right FROM me, and lots of embarrassment for what I felt, physically and mentally, all the time.

When I think about it, I never HAD a childhood.  The story is that the actual abuse started when I was 5 years old.  I do not recall that portion at all.  Apparently my Mother found out when I was 6 years old, and my Father was made to attend counseling through various facilities because he was in the military.  My Mother said she continued to ask me if anything was happening, and I would always say no.  Either at some point, she stopped asking, or I stopped telling her the truth…either way, 2 years later, hunter green pajamas, bloomer bottoms, no more questions.

Times and places are really irrelevant…in the house, outside of the house; when my Mother was home and when she wasn’t; in my bedroom or in their bedroom; piano room, truck, Army depot, dirt road, bathroom…all a nauseating whirl of cigarette smoke, sweat, danger of being caught, trying to evade…but no ultimate escape.

I remember vividly the day the Sherriff called the house and asked if I wanted to prosecute my Father.  I was just shy of 18…and my Mother hovered over me, waiting to see if I was going to have her husband thrown in jail.  I answered no.

I remember going to court – Plaintiff, the State of South Carolina, with my Guardian Ad Litem seated at the table with me, versus the Defendant, my Father, with my Mother by his side.  And the Judge speaking so very harshly to my Father, and him looking so small and terrified, and the Judge telling him if he were walking on the same side of the street as me, he was to cross to the other side of the road, and if he saw me in a store, he was to leave.  And I left that courtroom feeling so badly I wanted to vomit, like I had done something horribly wrong.

And I remember therapy after therapy after therapy – a group for victims, a group for perpetrators, a group for families…I remember how in group therapy there was no one else whose Father had molested them – it was an Uncle, or neighbor or stranger…not a Father…like they’d never ever heard that before.  And then in the family group we all met together – Dad, Mom, my brother and I…and THEY were ready for Dad to move back home…and I was not.  And then it was all about my pajamas being too short, and I walked around the house ‘asking for it’ – and I just couldn’t hear that anymore.  That was August…I remember because it was time for college, and my original plan was to live at home and commute to school – only about 15 minutes away…but after that group, I suddenly decided to board at school, and never lived at home again.

I was convinced that my Father only molested me.  He had a sickness – that’s what I told myself.  I never once believed that he snatched children off the street and messed with them.  There was no evidence that I could see to support that claim.  I was an easy target to feed his sickness, as simple and as easy as that.

I also never questioned as a child that my Mother knew what was happening to me.  That day when I opened up to her, she seemed genuinely shocked to find out what was going on.  She reacted immediately to get us to safety and get me what I needed.  Several people in my life have since tried to imply that she had to know…there’s no way a mother could not know something was going on under her roof.  My response to that is simple:  my Mother died way too soon for many things – to see me marry, to meet her grandchildren, to enjoy an adult relationship with her children.  I would love to have a conversation with her and ask her many, many things.  This question is not one of them.  I know she loved me to the best of her ability.  I know she parented me with the best skills she possessed.  I also know she did not abuse me.  As a parent and the child of abuse, I know I have spent my life hypervigilent to make sure my children will never know the pain I experienced at the hand of anyone…ever.  Does this mean my Mother missed the signs?  Absolutely not.  My Mother struggled with her own issues of self-worth, self-doubt and depression.  The bottom line is that I choose to focus on the positive things she did to raise me right, and once it became known to her what was happening, she got us all out of that situation immediately.

Lastly, I am asked constantly how I could have forgiven my Father for what he did to me.  My answer is the same to basically everyone who asks…how could I not?  I was raised to know and love Jesus Christ as my Savior.  We live in a fallen world full of sinners just like me.  My Father was no exception.  As I mentioned, he had an illness for which I was the unfortunate target. On the one hand, I am grateful that no other person had to experience what I did as a result of his illness.  I am equipped with God’s love and mercy, and have walked through much of the damage caused by those years of abuse.  On the other hand, I had no way of knowing the depth of that damage, still reaching me some 38 years later.  Though I’ve forgive him and he’s gone on to glory, I still have scars from what happened.  I work through these as they come up, and I thank God for the testimony when I reach full and complete healing!  My Father passed away just a few short years ago, and I was fortunate to be by his side in his remaining days.  We shared some precious time together, and I learned priceless things about him that I would never trade.  Not uncommon, I did learn that my Father was also the victim of sexual abuse at the hand of several strangers as a teen.  This is not a justification of his behavior, but more insight into the damaging effects and repetitive cycle abuse has on people.  I am consciously choosing to stop this cycle with me.  It stops with me…

Those who read my writing know I typically put it all out there when I share.  My hope in sharing this immensely personal account is that one person…somewhere…will find the courage to either tell someone they are being hurt, or stop hurting someone TODAY.  No judgment, no blame; just release and healing…

Standing TALL after the Fall

Sometimes it takes a good fall to know where you stand.

I’m not naïve enough to think every day is full of sunshine and puppy dogs.  Some days I wake up, and within no uncertain amount of time, I am ready to go flying back to my bed, head quaking under the covers, wondering why on Earth I bothered to get up at all.  Today was one of those days…

It’s winter in New England – and prepare as I might, weather-related delays are inevitable, inconvenient and unwelcomed.  Nevertheless, they are a part of life that must be dealt with…one way of the other.  For those not from this area, we are having a particularly snowy patch as of late – and I am not doing a great job of being joyful about our current bounty;  in fact, if I’m being perfectly honest, I’m down right cranky about the whole deal.  And today was certainly no different.

Two days ago I had just spent a luxurious 3 hours outside shoveling my Jenny Craig size driveway so my car could fit instead of trading for that motorcycle I’ve been eyeing, only to have my efforts covered with a fresh deposit of snow, ice and slush overnight.  Let’s just say Pharrell’s latest hit song was not exactly what I was humming as I dressed this morning…after the 90 minute delay announced by the kids, throwing my immaculately timed scheduled into a cataclysmic cyclone of disaster even the Lone Ranger couldn’t lasso.  But I tried to roll with it as best possible – breakfast, 2 kids off to the bus at 8, last kid out the door only 10 minutes late, with me right behind after a last second shoe change decision, which proved to be the ONLY good decision of the day.

As I slid to the car, I really did notice the mound of snow at the base of the driveway…honest.  But somewhere in the back of my brain, I briefly thought my 10 year old minivan had been transformed into the Starship Enterprise overnight, able to leap small, possibly moderate snow banks in a single gas-pedal stomp.  Absolutely no time to shovel…I can make this…I have to go!  Into the car I lunged…buckle up, this is going to be a bumpy ride…aimed between the ‘goal posts’ that used to be the end of my driveway, now 8 feet high with dirty white mounds of hatred…and I floored it.  Thud.  Hmmm?  That didn’t quite work…let’s try again…Forward, Reverse…thud.  Uhm…?  Ok, one last time should do it for sure…I’ll turn the wheel a tiny bit…there’s probably just a small snowball blocking the tire…reverse…THUD, SPINNNNNNN!

I see in my rearview mirror a young man, shoveling my neighbor across the street, and his father with a snow blower, walking up the sidewalk at the corner.  I do that thing…you know it…where you sit there and pretend what has happened is really NOT HAPPENEING…for maybe 30 seconds…until I see this young man out of the corner of my eye, about 3 inches from me now, as I’m hoisted up in the air in my car, like a parade float…he’s brought his shovel, and without a word, he’s begun to remove some snow from under my float…I mean my car.  I feel a bit obligated to roll the window down, swallow the large piece of stupidity I’m choking on, and thank him for his support…I’m thinking he’s trying not to laugh, but I can’t be certain…he apparently was raised well.  His father, however, now joins him, and he has much less – shall I say, composure – ‘Jason, we don’t have time for THIS!’  Ma’am, you’re gonna want to turn the wheel…and not run over a mound of snow with your car AGAIN…’  Oh, really…did I do that?!  We make a few back and forth attempts, they both push a few times, the older gentleman gets in for a moment (obviously he can push the gas pedal better than I can – or maybe he was just wanting to run me over at that point, I’m not sure), all to no avail.  He tells me I need to find someone with a tow rope…and they leave me…right there in my float.  I must say, it was a pretty lonely moment.

Being the stubborn girl I am, I sat there a LONG time.  I thought about what to do, how to resolve this hot mess I found myself in and if it was truly a possibility to just abandon the whole scene and come back in July.  It was shocking to me that 3 people…I hope these people were merely passing down my street and were not MY NEIGHBORS…had to drive around me, but simply shook their heads in disgust (Seriously, no one could have been more disgusted than I was…just sayin’) and kept on trucking.

And after all of that, I thought about what brought me to that exact moment.  I was having such an anxious morning.  I was headed to court, somewhere I didn’t want to be, to do something I didn’t want to be a part of, alone.  And I was going through all the motions – the old me I’ve been working so very hard to walk away from – and I would have walked into that court alone, stood up alone, and done the right thing, just like always.  But this ridiculous morning happened…and absolutely not by accident.

Time after time, instance after instance, when I’m brought to my knees, or my face, or my back on an escalator, God is standing there with His hand at the ready to lift me up – but not until I see what needs to be seen.  Today I could have had a tantrum about missing court.  I really needed to be there, but once I realized I wasn’t going to make it, it rolled off me like a wave in the ocean, and though I still had the parade float to deal with, I wasn’t uptight, I wasn’t angry, I wasn’t frantic.  I sat there for 2 hours…2 funny, ridiculous, crazy hours.  But those were 2 hours I wasn’t being verbally assaulted, or belittled, or vilified.  I was protected by love, and once that became clear, the iceberg landed and I was allowed off.

The coolest part, however, came once I got inside the house.  God shows us His love all the time, every day, tens of times a day.  But my absolute favorite part is the confirmation that He is in complete control.  I came inside, put my pajamas back on, climbed back into my bed, and promptly received an email notification that court was continued for 4 weeks – I had missed absolutely nothing critical – I was right where I was meant to be all along.  On my knees, on my face, on my back, on an iceberg – we can’t prepare for the fall, but God does, and afterwards, we stand so much taller.  Today, in that car, I gained at least an inch – and part of me that’s been missing for a while.  For that bounty, I’m available again tomorrow…