Finding Red Flags vs. Fighting The Past

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We are all sinful, fault filled human beings with insecurities, fears, and selfish desires. But, navigating new relationships and getting to know people post abuse causes us to hold a magnifying glass to other’s humaness. We dissect their every word and the subtle nuances of their tones and body language, looking for that ah ha moment when we can prove beyond a doubt that they were indeed attempting to deceive us in order to use and abuse us.

New man is definitely not perfect. He has been through his own pain that created calluses on his spirit. He was born with a sin nature that pulls him down. If I were to tell my friends the cruel things he has said to me or the time he tried to lie to me or about his nasty habits/addictions, I’m quite certain they’d tell me to heed the red flags and run. But, I won’t. I mean, I threaten it weekly. The poor man just said on Tuesday evening, “Baby, you’ve GOT to stop taking your stuff and leaving every time you get upset.” Running, leaving, bailing is my default. I operate in “flight.” But, I won’t really fly far away, not for long.

Over the last four months I’ve had to face the reality that often my anger or hurt feelings are because I’m judging New Man’s words and actions through the lens of the past. I’m holding him accountable for what the abuser did and said. He’s not to blame for all of that, but I accuse him nonetheless. I get “triggered” or just scared, and suddenly everything from every wounded moment in my life is his fault. It’s confusing for him. And, it feeds his own insecurities and issues. And, I hurt him.

Falling in love is exhilarating and fun, but it’s also one of the most frightening things you can do once you come out on the other side of domestic violence. I could choose to shrink back, unwilling to risk being hurt again. What if I’m wrong about him, too? What if he’s tricking me like my abuser once did? I’m choosing grace instead though. Because I want to experience the give and take of genuine love and friendship in an intimate relationship with a man. I really do want to try.

The truth is– the truth I’m having a hard time accepting– is that this imperfect New Man does love me. He does see good in me. He’s willing to forgive me. He’s able to walk and talk through the ugly stuff. He actually wants to recover from misunderstandings and unintentional wounds. He’s in this. He’s with me, not against me.

At this point in time with the abuser, we were already engaged. We’d already had horrible, horrible FIGHTS. He already regularly called me names. He had already ruined holidays. He was routinely insulting me. My friends and family were already being replaced by his friends and family. The red flags were more like neon billboards.

I’m a strong woman. I’ve survived so many horrors. I know I am courageous. So, I’m courageously now giving my bruised, fragile heart to another human being, hoping for the best, and trying to relax into his love for me.

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Letting Go and Learning to Trust After Divorce, Domestic Violence, and Betrayal

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The new man is nothing short of amazing. He’s attentive, supportive, kind, gentle, thoughtful, fun, a great communicator….everything I’ve ever wanted. No, he’s more than I ever wanted. I couldn’t even dream of a man treating me so good. But, weekly, I find myself shutting down. I pull back for a day. I feel confused and angry over nothing. I don’t get it! Why am I feeling this way? Why can’t I just enjoy this incredible time?

My reality is I have come to expect pain and lies. I have stopped believing in an inherent goodness within the hearts of humans, especially the male kind. My default has become distrust of any and all. Guilty until proven innocent. Yet, that prohibits the closeness and intimacy I absolutely crave. It keeps the door to my heart locked and barred. It’s been lonely inside my self- imposed prison though. I want out!

The lessons taught by abuse, adultery, and betrayal are valuable and must be retained, yet there does come a point in time where we have to be willing to risk a little, a point in time where we must let our guard down and allow another human access to our inner selves….. even though that’s scary and hard.

I’m admittedly jumping in to the deep end head first and disregarding the wise advice to take things slow…..in spite of being scared to death. But, the new man is patient and humble and makes himself vulnerable, which makes it so easy to dive. We’re working hard to keep respectful communication at the forefront at all times, which makes it easy to want to trust him.

I’ve had to make a conscientious decision to lay aside my pain, to stop judging him by the actions of someone he’s never met. I’ve decided to choose trust and intimacy over pain and fear with the knowledge that he may let me down. I want to live and love again. At some point that requires taking a plunge. I must take a deep breath, step off the end of the board, and allow my body to fall into the unknown waters below.

Dating Post Abuse

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Three weeks ago my teenager cajoled me into creating a dating profile on a well known dating site.  It has been interesting to say the least!  Also about three weeks ago, my sister in law met a new man while out dancing in a local bar.   

I have trepidations regarding her new guy.  I see potential red flags and feel like it’s too soon.  But, she’s eager and ready to move on and away from my brother’s adultery and constant put downs.  I, on the other hand, have needed a lot of time to recover from years of abuse and be ready to make myself vulnerable again.  

In this three weeks,  I’ve chatted on the phone with men, texted with men, and been to dinner with one.  And, the entire time I’m like a hunter, stealthily tip toeing, quietly waiting for signs.  Could he be controlling?  Is he immature?  Needy?  Is he lying about his past?  Is this image control? 

Meanwhile, my sister in law is being wined and dined and having the time of her life, feeling like someone wants her and validates her.  Whether or not he’s genuine doesn’t cross her mind. 

Being a single survivor of domestic violence has been crippling for me.  I just can’t seem to really forget.  I can’t just let go. 

I worry incessantly about my sister in law.  MY KIDS DO, TOO.  Post abuse, we’re all looking for the potential abuser behind every bush.  We’re anticipating the worst because the worst has happened, and we know it’s real.  It can always happen again.  

It’s very difficult to get to know a new person when you’re not listening to what they say as a way to get to know them, but rather as a means of deciphering the hidden meaning behind their words.  The distrust has been thick.

I can freely love new clients, homeless people, children my kids associate with,  strangers on the street.   I’m open to others.  Unless they’re single men. 

I’ve been so afraid.

The lingering question following me everywhere has been, “What if it happens again?”  As much as I haven’t trusted the men I’ve met since the divorce, I think the biggest issue is, I haven’t trusted my own ability to discern.  Nor have I trusted God to  protect me.  

I’m going to repeat that.  I haven’t trusted my own ability to discern, nor have I trusted my God to protect me. 

That’s the real issue.

I haven’t been on a New Year’s date since 1995.  I’ve LOVED our family New Year’s parties and felt no need whatsoever to kiss someone when the ball dropped.  This year was different though.  It was suddenly  critical to me that I have a date for New Year’s.  I felt a desperate need, as though I’d be setting the tone for the entire New Year based on how I spent one silly evening.

So, without really any prior conversation, I made plans via messages to meet a younger and very attractive man from the dating site.

A part of me chastised myself for feeling so desperate.  Another part was just incredibly relieved. 

He did not seem like a safe bet.  He only moved here four or five months ago from out of state.  He’s younger.  We hadn’t even talked or texted.  And, did I mention he’s incredibly good looking?  It seemed like a dangerous combination.  But, at least I wouldn’t be alone on New Year’s.  I’d take what I could get.  

As the day wore on and I didn’t hear from him, I began to assume he was standing me up.  Gah!  Not only was I going to be alone, I was being stood up!  What was I even thinking?  And, then he texted and called while I was at dinner.  I didn’t respond, so he thought he was being stood up!

But, at approximately 9:15 we both arrived at our planned destination.   He brought me chocolate and a homemade card and was a complete gentleman the entire evening.  We visited A LOT, danced very little, and he kissed me in a very platonic way at midnight.  I forgot to judge him.  I relaxed into his presence and just simply enjoyed his company and getting to know him.   

When I got home I looked up the verses he referenced in his note to me.  One was Proverbs 4:23, Keep thy heart with all diligence; for out of it are the issues of life.  

In that sweet gesture, that sweet reminder, I relaxed again.  How I’ve responded to men and even feared them these past six years has been okay.  It’s helped me to guard me heart.  I won’t ever have to look back and regret a string of men or any sinful behavior post divorce.  My heart and my body have been preserved for that man God does bring me.  And, perhaps that means God has been protecting me all of this time.  Perhaps He’s used my past suffering as a gated wall to keep me in reserve for something better. 


Strengths and Weaknesses

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My family of origin described to me as weak and incapable of standing up for myself.  That is supposedly the reason I was denied any inheritance.  I could not be trusted to hold on to and manage family property because I’d let people talk me into anything.  And, take things from me (like they did?).

I still often hear that I should take my ex back to court for a myriad of reasons.  It’s ridiculous how much he’s gotten away with, and I need to protect my kids.  They shouldn’t be forced to go on visitation with their abuser.  I need to report the continued break ins and vandalism.  He should be paying more child support.  I can’t just sit here and “let” him get away with everything.

The thing is, for me, I am weary of fighting.  I’ve been fighting my entire life.  I’ve been fighting for my right to sleep, to eat, to have friends, to get to keep my panties on, to keep the money I earn.  You name it.  I’ve fought for my basic human rights my entire life.  And, I’m just plain tired.  I don’t want to fight anymore.

And, yet, daily I do still fight.

Every morning I wake up exhausted to fight the good fight of keeping my kids on track emotionally, mentally, spiritually.  Every morning I head off to work to fight the fight of earning another dollar when I need to earn ten.  Most days, all day long, I fight to maintain my dignity while being treated like a character from “The Help.”  Every afternoon I arrive home to fight to get bills paid, meals cooked, laundry done, children educated, animals tended and protected, wood brought in, and clients scheduled–a full days’ work–in the matter of a few hours.

I fight those battles because those are the battles I choose because, for some reason, I, perhaps falsely, believe those are battles I can eventually win.

I just loathe interpersonal battles.  I’d rather walk away and deal with things on my own than fight some stubborn, narcissistic, pretentious aggressor.  They can think they’re right.  They’re going to anyway!  Going toe to toe with them only weakens me for the real battles that I must fight.  I’ve been chastised for not correcting them as is my Christian duty.  We aren’t to shrink back I’m told.  We have to cast light on sin.

These people who love to argue and fight and cause drama and strife disregard scripture that says it’s okay for me to just let it go and shake the proverbial dust off of my feet.

http://lavistachurchofchrist.org/LVanswers/2006/07-11.htm

I was discussing all of this with someone I went to high school with.  Though I haven’t shared a lot with him of what I’ve been through since high school, he seems aware of it.  I’m sure there is talk in this small town and our mutual friends “catch” people up on others’ lives.  I want to share with you what he said to me.  We all need to hear this.  We need someone to encourage us and remind us that most would have broken if they’d had to endure what we’ve endured.  I received his words, and I’m speaking them to you today.  This morning, take these words into your heart.  Say them out loud to yourself, inserting your own name in the blank.

“Seeking peace and avoiding confrontation is certainly NOT a weakness, ____________! 🙂 Losing control is easy, while maintaining one’s control demonstrates an inner strength that too many people just don’t seem to have, as the adversarial Facebook experts on “everything” continue to show us!! 😠 Too many people ENJOY the thrill of conflict, but I’m with you….I prefer the peace and tranquility when I can find it…(and some cheeseburgers)….ANYDAY!! 😀 You are a smart and beautiful woman, ____________….but you are most certainly NOT weak!! 💪😉

May you have a peaceful and restful Sunday, my sweet, strong Survivor Sisters!  ❤

 

Churchianity and Scripturese: Why I Refuse Invitations to Church

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The perky voice on the other end of the line responded to my decline to her invitation to church, “Well, it just really hit my heart when someone told me once that if I wasn’t going to church because of other people, then my faith was in other people, not God.”

All I’d said was that church doesn’t feel like a safe place for us right now.

I really feel that if you have to be showing up to church every Sunday, which isn’t God’s Sabbath anyway, to PROVE your faith, then your faith isn’t in God but is, rather, in an institution and isn’t based on obedience to Him but, rather, other people’s perception of your activities.

I don’t want to practice Churchianity.  I want to walk with my God every hour of every day.  I want to do scary things with Him, like create a life post abuse, unfortunately, without loving support from those who claim to be His hands and feet.

I’ve received comments on this blog, which I’ve chosen not to allow, stating that I’m not a Christian.  I can’t be, not with my position and the things that I write.

I’m avoided by Christian home schooling moms and people we used to attend church alongside.  They either look away and pretend they don’t see me or they introduce themselves and make a point of telling me they don’t know who I am, though we’ve run in the same circle for decades and have shared intimate conversations.  I’m one of those who has “fallen away.”

I just don’t toe the line.  I’m “out of fellowship.”  I “need to have those kids in church.”  I “should not speak evil against other people.  We ALL sin and have fallen short.”  I am accused of being “full of bitterness.”

Last week I shared a link on Facebook to a wonderful blog post about how everything doesn’t have a good purpose.  I shared it with several people in mind whom I knew would find comfort in the writer’s words.  The premise was that sometimes people die and babies are raped, and it just hurts.  And, it’s okay to hurt.  It’s cruel to tell a grieving mother that God has a plan for all of this and she’ll see someday how good this will all work out.

One very religious woman didn’t like that post and commented that she chooses to believe the word of God is true and that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose.  Romans 8:28.   I deleted her comment and unfriended her.  This has happened just one too many times with her, and I’ve tried and tried through private messages to tell her how she comes off to others.

She didn’t hear the smugness in her comment.  She didn’t even comprehend how that could be taken by someone deeply wounded and suffering in that moment.  She was using scripture as a weapon, not a comfort.  She wielded the Word as a double-edged sword with power to divide joints and marrow instead of using it as a soothing balm, reminding the weak of God’s great love for them and that He came to bind up the broken-hearted.

These types of people seem to always be prepared to spout off a suitable scripture to put people in their place, but they’ve conveniently forgotten those scriptural references that would stop them from such behavior.  They are fluent in Scripturese and use it regularly to prove their spiritual superiority to those of us who experience any human emotions.

When Jesus arrived at the home of his friend Lazarus after Lazarus had died, Jesus wept along with everyone else.  He was God manifested in flesh and knew His intention was to perform a miracle that day, to raise Lazarus from the dead.  But, He wept.  He stood there with all of those broken-hearted friends and family members and cried over the loss of a friend and brother.  He didn’t stand and condemn them for failing to rejoice in Lazarus entering into eternal rest and peace or the temporal condition of all of this anyway.  He stood with them and wept also.

Rejoice with them that do rejoice, and weep with them that weep.  Romans 12:15

By saying that she “chooses to believe God’s word is true,” she seems to be inferring that those who feel, say, or think that sometimes bad things just happen are choosing to believe God’s word is not true.  Or, perhaps she just thinks we don’t love God?  Or, aren’t even counted among the called???   Of course, that leads us to even darker places of doubt where we all too often go in our darkest moments anyway….Why is God doing this to me?  Does He love me?  He loves everyone but maybe I’m so awful, so sinful, so unforgivable, He doesn’t love me.  Maybe I’m not even really saved?  I’ve accepted Him into my heart and been baptised.  I believe.  But, maybe I’m not saveable?  Maybe the abuse made me too dirty for His kingdom.

In the process of preparing for our eventual move, I’m fixing what needs or can be fixed and getting rid of what can’t be.  It’s been an emotional three months of downsizing and saying goodbye to things I’ve held onto for far too long.  So, I took the guitars in to the music store to see if they could be fixed.  We attended church with the owner; my boys took lessons there; and he’s done repairs for us in the past.  He has often prayed for us and with us.

The guitars were to be ready in a few days but weeks went by.  One excuse after another.  They even left town for a week and failed to let us know he hadn’t even started the repairs yet.  We just kept waiting and waiting without notification of the constantly pushed out time frame.  He finally called my son and told him his younger brother’s guitar was ready.  However, my vintage classical guitar could not be repaired.  It was too badly damaged by the abuse my oldest daughter inflicted upon it when she borrowed it.  He wanted to know what we planned to do with it.  If I was just going to throw it away he would keep it and just use it at his house as wall decor.  At first I agreed to that, but I couldn’t sleep that night.  Something about it didn’t set right with me, so I had my son call him the next day and tell him I had changed my mind.  I would like the guitar back to hang on my own wall.  Truth was, I didn’t believe him.  I feared if I walked in that shop a month from now I’d see my guitar repaired and for sale with nothing but pure profit for him.  I’m going to take it somewhere else to get a “second opinion.”

The day I stopped in after work to pay him for what he’d done and pick up both guitars, he, of course, wanted to pray with me and asked where we’re fellowshipping now.  I told him we’ve been out of church for a year and a half.  He was clearly disturbed by that.  I shared with him that it’s difficult being divorced in church.   The children and I are viewed as second class citizens in the kingdom.  I shared with him some of the harsh and condemning ways the church has dealt with our emotional, physical, and sexual abuse and how it has extended grace to our abuser and how the church has compounded our pain.  He acknowledged it’s hard to “come from a broken family” in church.

He updated my contact information in the computer system and wanted to know the story behind by fantastic email address.  I shared with him that when God took my health and my marriage and my parents and my brother and my adult children, I thought it was death and hell on earth.  But, God was emptying me of the toxic people and things in my life and bringing me to a place of TOTAL emptiness, so He could fill me with Him and Him alone.  (And, I honestly believe that.)

He smiled that schmarmy smile the practitioners of Churchianity so often smile and began to speak fluently in Scripturese, chastising me for denying the body of the gifts that my children and I have been given.  Because, he reminded me, God has bestowed gifts upon each one of us, even me and my children.   He finished with, “I don’t know what your role was in the demise of your marriage.  You know, it’s usually our own toxicity God is trying to reveal to us.  We’re the toxic ones He has to deal with.”

I actually wanted to laugh out loud, roll on the sidewalk in front of his shop, holding my stomach, and feeling as though I might burst from the belly laughs that welled up within me.  He accused me of denying the body of Christ of my gifts by not going to church and sharing what God’s doing in my life, yet when I shared my testimony with him he turned it on me and corrected me on what God has been teaching me through all of this!  He completely discounted my “gift!”  He presumed to know the mind of God and what it is that God has really been trying to reveal to me! He didn’t want me to share anything!  He just wanted me to open up enough so he could accuse and correct appropriately!   He wanted me to get back in line and accept the “fact” that I’m to blame for my ex-husband’s perversion and violence and that I’m the toxic one.  This so-called freedom I think I’m walking in–now that I’ve finally realized abuse is a tool the devil has used on me from birth, that my mom, dad, grandpa, ex, and everyone else were prisoner warriors in satan’s war on innocence–is false.  I’m in bondage because I’m just not groveling on the ground in a continual state of contrition as I should be!

What hypocrisy!

For they bind heavy burdens and grievous to be borne, and lay them on men’s shoulders; but they themselves will not move them with one of their fingers.  Matthew 23:4

The Savior is not like these people, and they are nothing like Him.  They do not represent Him.  For decades I thought they did.  I thought they were right.  If I was hurting, especially if THEY were the ones hurting me, I MUST be wrong because THEY are His people and they KNOW things I don’t.  They have a mainline to God that I obviously don’t.  My life has been hard, and His ways are easy.  He makes our paths straight and leads us beside still waters.  The children of the righteous don’t go hungry.  And, these beautiful people’s paths were straight and easy.  Their children lived like little princes and princesses.  My children and I just suffered.  We were poor, hurting, hungry, and alone.  OBVIOUSLY, God was with them and not with us!!!  Just ask them, they’d tell me so!  In fluent Scripturese they would explain to me why they were perfect and their lives were perfect and why I just couldn’t experience the perfection they enjoyed.

But the wisdom that is from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, and easy to be intreated, full of mercy and good fruits, without partiality, and without hypocrisy.  James 3:17

I now reject their teachings as false.  I would love to fellowship one day, find a body of believers to study with, pray with, celebrate with, and mourn with.  But, I will not participate in Churchianity.  For now, for a time, I choose to sit “outside the camp” alone with the one true God.  I trust Him to gently and tenderly lead me where He wants me.  And, for now, it seems He wants to hang out just the two of us.  And, that’s okay.   It’s beautiful actually.  But, I know that this season will pass and eventually He’ll put me with a group of others.  Just not now.  And, when He does, I trust that the people will be genuine and honest and not bowing at the false altar of Churchianity, smiling while hurting others, and speaking Scripturese.

Becoming Fearless

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The sunny afternoon had turned into a mildly breezy evening, and my three children and I sat in the car outside the laundromat.  The youngest, being sick, slept off and on.  My youngest son played in the backseat while my teenager and I visited in between reading snippets here and there on our phones.  Of course, we did our usual silly goofing off and laughing at each other’s antics.

By the time I transferred the clothes from the washers to the dryers the clientele began to change.  The tired looking moms and dirty working men began heading home for dinner, and the drug addicts began showing up.  En masse.  Without laundry.

Two women appeared suddenly at the passenger side of my car, one on a boys’ BMX style bike.  Their entire conversation seemed to be a loop of, “Weirdo!”  “No fucking way!”  “Yeah, that guy!  Remember him?!  Where is he?”  Insert incessant strange laughter.  Begin again…….”Weirdo!”  “No fucking way!”  “Yeah, that guy!  Remember him?!  Where is he?”  It was as though they were communicating in a different language.  They seemed to understand each other and find each other hilarious.  But, it was nonsensical.

After the fifth or sixth F bomb my 10-year-old quietly commented, “Nice way to talk in front of kids.”  The women were so close to my car that I was afraid the one was going to drop the bicycle onto the side of my car.

A man appeared from a building across the street, stepping outside in his uniform to take a smoke break.  The woman on the bike yelled at him, then told her friend she was going to go get him, and rode off.  The woman left behind was wild-eyed.  She twitched as she looked every direction.  It made her look frantic.

My teenager and I continued to read and visit while occasionally casting a casual glance toward the activity occurring six inches in front of our car and between us and our clothing.  A young man appeared from around the side of the building, wearing a long trench coat with the hood pulled up over his head in spite of the spring like weather.  He seemed depressed.  He mumbled inaudibly to the wild-eyed woman.  She held up two cigarettes, both had been lit and then obviously immediately extinguished.  He shook his head no and groggily mumbled again as he handed her a cigarette.  She exclaimed, “Oh, I thought you asked for a cigarette!  You said I look like I need one?”  He shook his head affirmatively.  It seemed to take great effort for him to do that.

My 10-year-old proudly showed me something he’d made during this time.  It was red, and I had no clue what the material was, where it came from, and I questioned him, “What in the world is that made of?”  “The cover from my baby cheese!”  We all burst into laughter.  Creative.  At least he hadn’t thrown the wax covering on the floorboard when he had finished eating.

The woman immediately began yelling at the young man, “What is she laughing at?  Why is she laughing?  What is SHE laughing at?”

She was staring at me!

I probably should have been afraid, surrounded by druggies and homeless people with my three children in my car.  I’ve watched drug deals happen at the laundromat, exchanges between armed gang members.  I’ve seen gang members chase another guy down.  I’ve watched a woman take two heavily tattooed men around the corner and come back fixing her clothing and unable to stand still for a second and eventually walk circles around the building while talking to herself.

These are unsavory characters, scary folks with nothing to lose.

And, she was agitated by my laughter.

She thought I was laughing at her.  And, I was quite certain Mr. Trenchcoat likely had at least one weapon under that tent he was wearing.

But, I snapped.

In an instant my mind flashed to all of those times R falsely, and strangely, accused us of laughing at him.  In vivid detail, I remembered the Saturday my oldest two children were doing dishes together and laughing, being silly as kids will be, when he bent my son over the counter backwards and screamed, spitting even, in his face, demanding to know why they were laughing at him.  I will never forget that look of fear in my son’s eyes or the pleading tone to the kids’ voices as they tried to assure him they weren’t laughing at him.  It was all to no avail.  He was convinced they were mocking him, and he’d caught them.

So, as Wild Eyed Woman looked at me and then back at Mr. Trenchcoat and one more time asked him what I was laughing at, I rolled down my window and yelled, “Pardon me?!”  She looked at him incredulously, as if to ask, “What is her problem?”  She responded, “Nothing.”  I yelled again, “No!  What did you say?!”  The young man nudged her and shook his head no.  I hollered once more, “Pardon meeeeee?!”  She said, “Nothing.  Never mind.”  I continued to stare at her.  Well, perhaps, glare.  The guy in the trench coat leaned in and said something to her, and she ran away into the laundromat.  He sat down and began tripping on the asphalt.

My children stared at me in disbelief.

No one is going to falsely accuse me or my kids.  No one is going to threaten or intimidate me.  Not anymore.

 

 

 

Arguments, Debates, and Respect

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Someone in a medical freedom group I belong to asked, “Who here likes to debate?”  Certainly not me!

I’ve spent five decades fighting for my right to an emotion, an opinion, and at least a say in my own life.  At one time I did enjoy a good debate, when that was the only arena where I stood a chance to be heard.  But, now, I’m just battle weary and truly hate debate and disagreement.  

That doesn’t mean, however, that I silence my own voice.  I just don’t want to debate my opinion. 

It also isn’t that I’m so stubborn I don’t want to hear dissenting opinions.  It’s just that I don’t want to argue.  I want to be able to share an interesting article or express myself without having to defend myself constantly. 

Sometimes that means walking away from a conversation.  Sometimes that means walking away from relationships. 

Shortly after the divorce I connected with a young survivor, and we became close.  I cherished her.  Yet, when we met in person my older son and I both felt walked on.  We felt a little bullied.   I tried to explain it away that she desperately needed to express herself because she hadn’t been allowed to.  But, neither had we.   And, it seemed to set a precedent in the relationship.   Time passed, and it seemed that more often than not she argued or negatively commented on much of what I had to say.  When I finally told her that I didn’t like it, she responded that she thought my space was a place for open discussion. 

I went no contact.  I think of her so often.  I hear she’s happy and doing well.  And, that makes me happy.  But, I couldn’t continue in a friendship where I had to constantly defend my opinion or feelings for the sake of her desire for open discussion.

Sometimes I just want to be heard, too.  Sometimes I’m speaking to someone else, and it is interference to butt in. 

What’s wrong nowadays with just listening to someone else?  Just listening.  Respecting where they are in that moment.  Caring enough about other human beings that we don’t always need to make their conversation about us.

This week I posted an excellent article that discussed something many of us have experienced. http://southlakecounseling.org/why-the-church-wont-recognize-abuse/  I shared it with a couple of specific individuals in mind, and I hoped they’d see it.  I knew it would be helpful to them where they’re at right now. 

A woman I’ve never met and who obviously did not even read the article began arguing with it.  Her style of argumentation was familiar.  She mentioned ISIS and an abusive man in Dubai.  She flatly stated a falsehood about our local area as fact.  She told me to call the churches and ask questions, as though I’m just ignorant of what’s really going on.  She talked about her job.  She brought up other entities.  She victim blamed.  She said things like that “burn her buns,” in other words, she let me know it had angered her. 

I was triggered, and I responded, as did a few other people.  The woman continued.  She didn’t let up.  Neither did I, finally telling her this isn’t about her and to just stop.  A friend gently recommended she go back and read the original post.  She never addressed whether or not she had, in fact, read it. 

I posted something to help victims, and she high jacked it and made herself the focus. 

I deleted her comments and unfriended her.

My adult daughter, who does personally know the woman, jumped in to “defend” the woman and let my friends know “before anyone jumps me” that she’s my daughter.  No one had jumped the woman!

I deleted my daughter’s comment.  Enough was enough.  The focus should have been on victims knowing there is help and that they don’t need to remain a victim just because their church tells them they do! 

My daughter responded, “LMAO… my comments were deleted.” 

I deleted that.  The purpose of that statement was……???

Twenty four hours later, I woke up to yet another antagonistic comment from my daughter that stated she was sure her comment would be deleted because it seemed the only comments allowed were those that agreed with the article.  She was right.  I deleted it. 

Like a dog with a bone, some people get a hold of an argument they’ve created and they won’t let it go. 

That is characteristic of my daughter’s personality and how she lives her entire life.  And, I’m on the verge of going no contact with my own first born child. 

It isn’t that I don’t love her.  I long for a relationship with her.  Just like I still love that survivor friend I walked away from.  But, I choose now to surround myself with those who also care enough about me and the things I value to respect my feelings, thoughts, opinions, and words.  Yes!  Theirs count!  But, so do mine. 

I don’t condone everything my loved ones say and do.  I don’t agree with their lifestyle choices.  But, I hold my tongue and love them anyway, connecting with them where we do share commonalities.   I expect the same now. 

Facebook Memories; We’ve Come A Lot Further Than I Realize

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I love waking up to those Your Memories on Facebook posts.   Sometimes they’re pictures of my much younger kids.  Sometimes they’re my thoughts on what was going on in my life at that time.  But, they’re always a little surprising. 

I don’t notice how much my kids have grown because I see them every day.  I also don’t notice how drastically our life has changed because I live it every day.
Most days I’m frustrated that life has not changed fast enough.  I expected to be in a much better place this far out.  I imagined a nearly instant utopia just as soon as our abuser was out of the house, but that didn’t happen.   It’s been a long, slow, arduous process.

Nonetheless, it has, in fact, changed A LOT.

We’ve been snowed in for seven days and have spent the time home schooling and hiking, skiing, and sledding the mountain we live on.  We’ve eaten very, very well.  And, we’ve stayed warm.  We all have appropriate snow clothing, and, because I now have a chainsaw, we have a woodshed stocked with hard wood.

That hasn’t always been the case.

Since I married R none of us, except R, had warm, waterproof clothes.  And, most of the time we were food insecure.  Dry wood has, with the exception of a couple of years right before R left, always been an issue.

Last winter we had very little wet wood in spite of a shirt tail relative cutting down trees and my teenager working long hours hauling wood.  The man’s son in law took the lion’s share of that wood and took the very best of it.  We were so very cold all winter long.

When we were snowed in just three years ago, we sledded in our every day clothes, thin pants and fall jackets, and then came in to huddle under blankets in front of a smoldering fire. 

We’ve just been having too much fun this year.   🙂

It’s hard to even remember what it’s like to be hungry, to not even own a purse or have beds for the children……to accept the fact that the kids didn’t have shoes, and I tied the straps together of an old, worn out bra. 

I feel a bit spoiled thinking about all of that. 

Yes, we’re still living in a horribly run down house.  The tires on my car are bald.  The ex still tries to manipulate.  There are deep problems with a couple of my adult children.  I’m still alone.  We don’t have a church family.  And, there are many in our community who are drinking R’s Kool-aid, coddling the abuser and turning on the abused.

But……but……BUT…….. our life IS improving.  I see the evidence on those Facebook memories.  And, I FEEL it when I hear the gossip or see the hot stares or have to face the ex and his lies.  Because it doesn’t wound me anymore.  My skin is thicker.  My focus lies elsewhere.  Paralyzing fear has been replaced with indifference.  Hurt feelings have been replaced with the joy found in other relationships. 

Things just aren’t that bad anymore. 

No, I’m not where I’d hoped I’d be–in a home, relationships restored, justice applied, basking in a new love–but, I’m no where near where I was five years ago, three years ago, a year ago.  So, I can only imagine how different life will be in another year, three years, five years.  It’s slow.  It’s a process.  But, it is still progress. 

Family and Choices

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Deathly ill, I sat in my grandma’s tiny white and aqua kitchen drinking coffee.   She and I had always been close but had grown even closer since Grandpa passed away in April and my husband left the state in July.  She, too, was seriously ill, but no one realized she was dying.  Except her.  Perhaps me. 

She gave me a look that let me know I was not to question her and flatly stated, “We decided on this because R is the only one of you kids who is in a position to do the assessment work.  We want the mine to stay in the family and be open to all of you.  It just needs to be in his name because he’s got to be responsible for it.” 

I was devastated, but I understood.  He lived locally, unlike my three cousins; he was the only one of us with a truck; and I was sick and pregnant and abandoned.  But, why couldn’t it go to all of us?  Why couldn’t we all contribute somehow?  Monetarily maybe?  Why was one grandchild gaining sole ownership of the mine upon her death?

Of course, upon her death R gated it and locked it.  It was his.  The papers said so. No one was allowed up there without him, without his invitation, which rarely came. 

My uncle inherited my grandparents’ house and all of its contents just six months after that day in the kitchen.  And, I recall the horror of walking in on him and my oldest cousin pulling drawers out onto the floor and rummaging through Grandma and Grandpa’s things.  A lifetime of work and collecting and organizing in heaps on the floor.

Once he’d sufficiently sorted through their belongings and stripped the house of anything of value, he rented the house to my brother R.  The piano was still there.  My aunt wanted to give it to a local church, but my mom and I begged her to let it stay.  Three years later I offered my uncle $250 for it.  He refused.

A few more years passed and my uncle sold the old home, once the stage coach stop when it was down beside the creek, and the acre it sat on to R.  For $28,000.  With the piano included for free. 

R quickly bulldozed the old historic building and burned what remained.  He tore out the trees and bushes my grandparents lovingly planted and tended.  Well, what was left that my uncle had not already uprooted.   The old home place, the only home we’d ever experienced, was gone. 

In its place he put up a small shop and an old double wide someone just gave him. 

Our safe retreat, the warmth of Grandpa and Grandma’s old and small but sweet home, was erased from existence. 

The piano had been removed before the demolition, and it now sat in the trailer where the dogs chewed one leg off. 

My mother had been given the adjacent acre as her early inheritance when she left my step dad.  And, she left it to my daughter with my son in law as next in line, acknowledging my brother and me as her children yet admitting it was her intent to leave us nothing.

R was furious.  He demanded I help him go to court to get back what was rightfully ours.  I couldn’t.  I was knee deep in a court battle with my ex, fighting for safety for my children and myself.  R saw my refusal to help him as “siding” with my daughter and just letting her steal our inheritance.  So, when dad died seven months later, R once again made sure that he took everything Dad owned, denying me any right I had to it. 

And, here we are…..4 1/2 years later.  Why do I bring this all up now?

Yesterday on vistation (after putting away the naked blow up doll hanging in the dining room–that’s a whole other story) my ex told the kids that he was “just out in” the small area where I live and decided to swing in and say hi to my brother.  However, two strange guys answered the door and said they are his renters.  R doesn’t live there anymore.

I texted my daughter.  My brother has sent his dogs after my daughter and her friends when they’ve been working on my mom’s empty, old place, and he has stolen off of that property.  My daughter wouldn’t even go to the property alone when she was pregnant.   Now, they no longer need to worry about R bothering them. 

Maybe I should have left well enough alone. 

She immediately began checking public records to see if he had sold it.   In doing so, she found that he owns a second mining claim that none of us knew about.  And, it appears he abandoned my grandparents’ claim they left him all those years ago.  The government tried to contact him multiple times, but he failed to respond. 
It’s gone now, too.

I updated my 16 year old on what his sister was finding, and he looked at me, shaking his head, and said, “Wow, EVERYone in your entire family f-ed you.”

I woke up this morning to a frigid cold house I’m just grateful my landlord doesn’t kick me out of.  I tended the animals and brought in wood.  I attempted to wash my hands, but the ice water coming from the faucet was too much for my already cold hands.  So,  I moved on to building a fire in the tiny box at one end of the house.  And, all I can think about is how my brother and daughter have stolen and then just WASTED what should have been partly mine.  My stuggles could have been greatly eased had I received my portion.  Yet, those who wanted it all placed no value on that which could have changed my life.  And, in all honestly, they only acquired it all because, not only mom, but my grandparents, my uncle, and my dad allowed it. 

Like my son said….. everyone in my entire family f-ed me.  

And, people ask how I ended up marrying an abuser.  They ask what attracted me to a man like that.

It’s really all I knew.

No Story, No Glory

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I’ve been STRONGLY feeling all of your prayers going up on my behalf!  Thank you!

There have been no major shifts in the day to day reality of my life, but my attitude about it all has completely flipped.  I’ve been able to have more of an eternal perspective.

When I was a little girl I basically wanted just four things in life:  Lots of kids, lots of animals, to live on a body of water, and to write.  I loved to write stories and poems and play with my cats, dogs, chickens, rabbits, and calves.   Those were my happy places. But, as I grew my stories and poems got buried beneath heavy mounds of pain. 

My ex would tell you he tried to encourage me to write.  What he did was demand I write a book because he’d worked on the new home of a man who hit it big by…..writing a book.  Like one of those old cartoon characters, the dollar signs spun around his eyeballs, making him resemble a slot machine.  All he could think was that he’d no longer have to work at all.  His days could be wasted away in front of the TV, drinking beer, while living off of my royalties.

Because, yeah, starving writers aren’t really a thing.  You just write a book and get rich.  That’s how it works.  (I can taste my own sarcasm!)

I didn’t know what to write about though.  I tried.  But, nothing bubbled to the top and poured out the tips of my fingers.  They were dry.  Empty.  As though I had no stories to tell. 

The massive dam of abuse held back my ability to share my story.  Giant beams of shame and hardened layers of rejection directed the flow of my life and kept my words in place. 

Until an earth shattering natural disaster caused that dam to crumble.

Like Nehemiah riding through the ruins of the temple, I’ve spent the last five years circling the ruins of my life, trying to figure out how to rebuild this mess.  Debris is EVERYWHERE!  Some stones are so heavy there’s just no way I can possibly remove them by myself.   It’s a long, arduous process to thoroughly remove the chaotic evidence of destruction.  I can’t even think of rebuilding until the site is cleared.  Oh, just lots and lots of work to do!

As I’ve heaved and struggled, I’ve recorded my story.   I’ve written snippets, chapters if you will, of devotions, ideas and scripture verses, that have helped me with my work. 

I’ve also started writing my life story as a novel.  It’s not to make me the star of my own show.  I’m not so deluded as to think I’m that interesting.  By weaving other people’s stories into the abnormality of my own life story I’m hoping to prove there is no such thing as that elusive “normal life” and “normal family” too many of us long for.
And, now, I’m starting a third project.  I don’t think they’ll ever get published.  That’s not the point.  The point is, I’m writing.  I’ve tapped into that part of me that found solace in putting words to paper.  That, in itself, is fulfilling.  Amazingly, the abuse that took that from me has become the catalyst for my fulfillment.  It is my song. It is my story.

For now, my glory is that I have survived the cataclysmic disaster.  One day, my glory will be that I rebuilt on the site of the ruins, I will have reclaimed what looked to be beyond repair. 

Our precious Savior’s story of salvation and redemption is built on the abuse and pain of the cross.  The beauty of Heaven is built on the foundation of a fallen world.  His glory is found in the story of His willingness to become a man and suffer for the sake of all men.  
We’d have no desire to seek Him and that wonderful eternal peace He offers if we didn’t feel the terrible sting of the pain of this nasty world, just as He did.  Why did I ever think that I could escape it when even the Lord of Lords did not?  Have I not been called to follow Him?  To pick up the cross and follow Him? 

There IS glory on the other side of pain.  No matter the mechanism of injury.  No matter the cause of the devastation.  If we hold tight, it’s there.  If we can muster the strength to do the hard work of clearing, cleaning, and rebuilding, we’ll find it.  Our bodies are the temple of the living God.  And, as Nehemiah found with his temple, sometimes there’s just a lot of work to be done on that temple.  But, the beauty of the finished work outshines the disaster we began with.  It’s worth it.  Christ knew the cross was worth it.  He felt WE were worth it.