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I awoke to the sensation of acid burning my throat.  My head was foggy, my eyes unclear, and my nasal passages were tight.  I could barely swallow from the large lump that was previously my right tonsil.  My skin crawled with chills as I made my way through the frozen house.  

Smoke billowed from the fireplace insert and filled the tiny living room when I attempted to build a fire to bring some warmth into the main living area.  The scrap wet pine we’ve been burning has caused tremendous creosote build up, which has blocked off the major portion of the chimney pipe, preventing the smoke from escaping upward as it should.  

In the twilight of morning, sick, cold, and choked from black plumes of smoke, I felt alone and frightened.  I instantly longed for my dad.  And, the hatred of my divorced, adult orphaned status filled my lungs with a heavy vapor similar to the element pouring from the fireplace.  

As the infant fire struggled for life, the flickering flame jumping out and then disappearing again beneath the log, I posted my illness on Facebook as a subtle way of letting people know that I wouldn’t be in church.  

Almost immediately two of my local friends offered to bring me supplies if I needed anything.  I relaxed.  I wasn’t alone.  I wouldn’t suffer up here on the mountain without the basics.  If I didn’t feel like I could make it out later on, someone would come to my rescue.  

I need to stop those momentary episodes of lonely panic and settle into the warmth of friendship.  We aren’t family.  We don’t share the same bloodline.  But, we’re covered by the same Blood, and that makes us family.  

I didn’t have enough energy today to do anything but sit in a chair, so I utilized my time by going through the reams and reams of court documents, evidence, and supporting documents that were my life’s battle for the last twenty months.  Certainly, I don’t need to keep ALL of those things now.  I narrowed it down to two large manila envelopes to put in storage, and a portfolio file full of papers that may be needed should he take me back to court again.  God forbid.   

It was horrifying to read those documents.  I can’t believe that was really my life.  I cannot fathom facing those monsters in court, fighting for my right to my own children, fighting to keep them from further abuse, and fighting the smear campaign he was launching against me and any of the children that dared to tell the truth of what he’d done to us.  It is as though it was someone else, not me, sitting on the stand for hours.  It must have been a dream.  Or, an out of body experience.  That didn’t really happen to me, did it?  To my children?  I squint at the hazy memory…..Is that really my 12 year old child being taken into private chambers to recount when his father beat him or when he tried to kill him in a car on his birthday?

I nearly ended up unrepresented.  I had virtually no income and had already used every dime I could muster when my ex fought the restraining order and my temporary custody order.  I had hoped to approach my dad for a loan before the divorce proceedings began, but he passed away and I had no where to turn.  

Or, so I thought. 

Near the eleventh hour, a friend offered to loan me the money for the retainer, and her husband even used his connections to find an attorney who would take my case.  Because she has asked me to not tell anyone about it, I won’t give details.  But, tonight she messaged me that she is forgiving that debt, saying that she is blessed to have been able to help me. 

I have been overjoyed at the idea of being able to put this nightmare behind me.  I have been thrilled and excited over the prospect of moving on with my life.  But, I certainly didn’t expect a party.  

However, a few of my lovely home school friends put together a celebration for me at the park on Friday. Five busy moms took time away from their crazy schedules and braved the freezing cold and the rain. They brought goodies to share, and we chatted while the children played. I was surprised with thoughtful gifts to mark my entrance into this sweet tasting freedom, and I basked in the sense of community joy in my release from bondage.  I can’t think of a better word than SWEET to describe them, their actions, and our time together that afternoon.  

While I’ve ridden high on the giddy feelings accompanying my party and the finality of the divorce, I’ve also become acutely aware that I am 100% responsible for my little family.  I am not receiving child support, again.  My parents are both dead.  There is not an extended loving family to jump in and help with babysitting or getting wood in or to give the kids rides to activities or appointments.  It’s all on my shoulders.  

Every time I go to town I pray that my car gets me back home.  And, I know that we cannot continue to stay in this house much longer.  Today I moved a box off of a top shelf so I could get down a jar of jam and found the box to be full of rat hair.  How am I going to do this?  What am I going to do to provide for my little family?  How will I work and still be here to meet my children’s needs?  How will I get wood in?  How do I fix the toilet?  

As my mind races off in a million different directions of uncertainty and fear, I calm myself with the remembrance that this is a momentary episode of lonely panic.  The truth is I am not alone.  I never have been.  The Lord has provided every step of the way, and He has consistently used my friends as His hands and feet.  

One day last week, my friend who typically cares for my children while I work was unavailable.  I had no idea what I would do!  The divorced orphan feelings took over!  But, another friend was able to watch them.  And, she not only taught them, she nurtured them and cuddled my daughter, loving my babies and allowing me the opportunity to earn the money I need.   

I don’t know how we’ll get out of this house, out of poverty.  I have no idea what type of long term vocation I’ll end up in.  Or, how I’ll attain it.  I’m trying to just look at next week, next month, and take things one step at a time, trusting that brick by brick we’ll get there.  However, I have spent an inordinate amount of time this past week researching work opportunities online.  While part of me tries to trust and take it one step at a time, the other part of me searches for answers with urgency.

This afternoon I received an email letting me know that a fundraiser is being set up for me to help me get on my feet.  The whole idea leaves me breathless.  I’ve never even met some of the people involved.  Their kindness and compassion are incomprehensible.  I can’t get over their desire to help a total stranger.  If I hadn’t seen the announcement in full color on Facebook and on WordPress  I’d have scarcely believed it.  My head is spinning, and my heart is racing.

I’ve learned a lot through this ordeal.  I’ve learned patience, humility, transparency, and bravery.  I’ve learned to recognize a wolf in sheep’s clothing.  I’ve learned to trust God with my EVERY need.  I’ve learned to let go.  In my dad’s death, I saw the miracle of grace exemplified and learned how legalistic I have been at times.  But, my biggest, my greatest, lesson has been regarding the POWER and BEAUTY of friendship.  

A year ago I had no idea how I was going to secure representation.  A week ago I had no idea who would watch the kids on Tuesday.  Today, I have no idea how I’m going to get on my feet or even what that means.     

No matter what happens, I am surrounded by some of the most incredible human beings God has ever created.  No matter what happens, or, if nothing happens……if we are still living in this house three years from now, and I am still struggling while cleaning toilets for a living…..I am NOT alone.  

I am not a divorced adult orphan.  I do have a family.  A family of friends.