When we met with my son’s counselor, he asked how R’s spiritual life is going and if we’ve been in church. R answered that the youth pastor “just isn’t there.” The counselor questioned, “Isn’t there as in he left? Or, isn’t there as in emotionally checked out?”
We explained that no one from church ever (NEVER has) calls us or checks on us. We’re not kept in the loop or invited to anything. It’s been made very clear to us that we are bothering them when we’ve asked for counsel or prayer. I was once told to just write my prayer request on a sticky note. I stopped at the church in a panic, needing prayer and solace, and was handed a yellow Post It pad and a pen.
I shared with the counselor that there was another church. A church where we were welcomed, loved, and cared for. However, there had been a bad incident involving one elder in particular, and we’d bolted. I commented, “Ya know, there’s always got to be that one.”
The gentle mannered counselor sat back in his chair and slowly drew out each word, “Well, yes, then, there are….all….the….rest.”
It was that simple yet profound statement that took us back to what the kids refer to as “the white church.” We went back for all the rest.
All….the….rest: Those who emailed and called. Those who provided funds. Those who brought us Christmas–a thoughtful, purposeful blessing of provision. Those who visited us. Even when they knew we’d rejected their church because of an offense, they still expressed love and compassion.
I’ve lost several friends throughout this ordeal. Quite a number of prominent players in my life have dramatically exited the stage. There were those who proved to have selfish motives for our relationship. There were those who just didn’t want to be associated with this mess. And, there are those who just have such busy lives that they’ve moved on as I stagnate in the dirty mire of my life.
But, then, there are…..all….the….rest.
There is my best friend of the last twenty years. This is a woman who knows my ugly. But, miraculously, she sees it as some sort of strange beauty that just adds character to the face of my soul. She has been with me through thick and thin. Just today I received a sweet card of encouragement in the mail and an email telling me to keep writing. She believes in me no matter what size disaster I make of my life. She is auntie to my children, and they have come to expect regular care packages from Alaska. They KNOW that she loves them. I know, too.
There is my new friend I met just a year ago. She, too, stands by me and encourages me. She “gets it.” Though she is sensitive to my pain, she’s also got a wonderful, sarcastic sense of humor and always, always makes me laugh. She is just there. She recently sent her family over to my house, to give me her couch. Before that, she gave me a dresser and clothes for my son. When she watched my children, so I could take my son to counseling, she did it without charge and sent me home with smoked turkey soup, brownies, and a sampling of the Valentine’s Day cookies she had baked with the children while she cared for them.
There are my beautiful survivor sisters I found online. They have counseled me, told me the truth, encouraged me, supported me financially, mentored me, and invested in my life though they’ve never even met me. One recently helped me rent a car for an upcoming weekend out of town. I live an hour and a half from the Pacific Ocean, and my youngest two have never seen the splendor of the sea and its crashing waves. All my 6 year old wanted for his birthday last year was to go to the coast. My car won’t make it though, so we’ve remained stranded in this fishbowl of a valley with those who judge us and persecute us without reprieve or a change of scenery. Now, thanks to her, we’re getting out of here and will still be able to pay the bills before we go! We’re going to meet another of my precious survivor sisters and her children to hike and fly kites on the beach and, no doubt, cry a lot. It’s as though I’m going to see my adult daughter; I feel that close to this young woman whose face I have yet to behold.
And, another wonderful supporter has opened a home to us, so that we won’t have motel expenses. Can you imagine? Opening your home to total strangers? People you met on the internet??? (There is HUGE Biblical significance in that ability! We are commanded to entertain strangers, but how many of us truly have the faith and courage to do that?)
There’s my old friend from my wild teenage days who I hadn’t seen or talked to in decades. She’s come a long way since we were driving around in her Pacer. She has sent me articles on domestic violence she thought would be helpful, wired money, and encouraged me to look up beyond my circumstances.
There’s my uncle who is deeply immersed in his own grief and who had not seen me since 1980. We were only reunited because of my dad’s death. Over the course of the last year, my uncle has imparted fatherly wisdom; he has given me work; he has shared the details of his life, his pain and his success, as a means of communicating guidance and hope to me. He gave me money to take the kids to the fair last summer because he wanted them to have some “normal kid fun” in the midst of mourning and court drama.
There is “my” advocate–the woman who saved my life and told me the hard truth when I was still living in the fog of abuse. She then stood faithfully beside me through the worst of it and became, not only my mentor, but one of my dearest friends. She taught me to see beauty.
There is my wealthy friend who gave me a cleaning job and helped me secure an attorney. Every time I show up to her house to clean I find treats left for me. She hosted my children and me and my cousin and her son for a swim day. My cousin and I had not seen each other since the mid 80’s, but God had placed this one woman in my life and in my cousin’s life. So, when my dad’s family was trying to become reacquainted, this friend stepped in to give us an opportunity to spend a relaxed day in the sun casually getting to know each other.
She recently decided to host a Bible study in her home and invited me. I was nervous, feeling out of place with these happily married, well to do women, but she put me at ease. She asked me to participate and share my thoughts with the group. She sat by me, and she shared some of the ugliness from her own past, helping me to not feel “different.” She constantly puts herself in my place and condescends to my lower position, reaching out in loving friendship.
She gave me her old dining table and her son’s beds for my boys. Another young woman I’d never met before gave me her daughter’s bed for my little girl. Both of them also included the bedding. We have received a scholarship for my boys to take ballroom dance classes. I have no idea who is actually paying for it, or if it is a group effort. There are countless gifts like this that we’ve received over the last 20 months.
One of my first clients and I have become very good friends. She faithfully prays without ceasing until I tell her we’ve received an answer. She is so open to the prompting of the Holy Spirit that when I prayed to the Lord that I would love to have music in my home, she offered me her stereo. Another time, I was cleaning for her in the heat of the summer and thinking how I would love a blended, frozen coffee but couldn’t afford one, and she stopped back by her house just to drop off a blended, frozen coffee to me. Her kindness and thoughtfulness seem to know no bounds.
A woman I met over thirteen years ago at a church I attended for about a year seems an unlikely supporter. Most who know her would tell you that she is extremely straight laced and strong in her beliefs and practices. Looking at her from the outside you might judge that she would be of the save-the-marriage-at-all-costs mentality. You might think she would never condone divorce. Her husband is fond of saying, “I don’t drink, smoke, or chew, and I don’t run around with girls who do.” But, she gives up two entire days every single week to babysit my children for free while I work. She helps J with his school work and rubs D’s face to get her to fall asleep. She shops the local thrift store for clothes for D and has purchased toys for J to play with at her house. She has allowed the little ones to help her with food processing and canning, giving them the same wonderful experiences my grandma gave me. She, too, “gets” the issues surrounding abuse and domestic violence and strongly desires complete freedom for the children and for me.
As I sit here and write, I’m not sure where to stop. I’m touching the tip of the iceberg. I have a tendency to focus on the pain I’ve experienced at the hands of so many. Yet, there are many who have been kind, loving, and supportive. There are those who have stabbed me in the back and wounded me deeply. But, there are those who have sacrificed for us and loved us deeply. There are….all….the….rest.