Saturday, October 4, 2014

My story- part 2

Hello friends! I can hardly believe that it has been almost 6 months since I last wrote here in this place. I never would have anticipated that it would be so difficult for me to simply show up and write here. I have been thinking about this post and reconnecting with my friends here for several weeks now, and I do think that I am finally ready.

So friend, please, come in!  Let's sit down and spend some time getting caught up, shall we?

In "Part 1" of my story, I promised that I'd share about the past almost 2 years now since I was forced to flee with my children to escape a very abusive 27 year long marriage.

It has been hard for me to decide how to summarize all that has happened since we left. There has been so much! I could tell you about the physical trials that I've had: falling and shattering my right wrist, about having a hysterectomy, or competing in my second half-IronMan triathlon competition this past spring anyway. Swimming, biking and running has played a *huge* role in helping me cope with stress, recover from the trauma in my past and be brave about facing my life now.

I could write about how incredibly overwhelming it is to single parent the 9 children who are still living here with me. I could tell you how hard it has been to give up homeschooling after 20 years and of the challenges of helping children adapt to public school (I will tell you that it's not been the Evil Empire that I was led to believe though!).

I could share with you about the absolute gut-wrenching heartache of watching and trying to help as older children navigate the deep waters of the emotional fallout from having lived with an abusive father for so many years.

I could tell you of my own personal losses: my beloved farm home and animals, my large gardens, my huge kitchen that I planned and had built.

I could tell you about my own emotional struggles... and honestly, "struggles" isn't a strong enough word. I didn't know it was possible to be as overwhelmed, flat-out broken and emotionally destitute as I have been the past 2 years (and even that description falls short of explaining my emotional state). There were many days when it took everything within me to simply get out of bed and care for my children, but God has shown up and given me the strength to get up and keep putting one foot in front of the other until it was time to fall into bed again at the end of the day.

I could tell you about my struggles spiritually: How for so long, I couldn't even pray for the children and me; I simply had to trust that the Lord would honor the faithful prayers of those who love us. I could give you a glimpse into the incredibly confusing and painful fallout from years of spiritual abuse; the tremendous level of panic I battle now simply attending church, and the fact that I still can't even read my Bible. God has met me me here too and continues to do so, through grace-filled, truthful words from friends, through praise and worship music and other simple means.

I may or may not write more about those things in the future, but for now I want to say this: God is good. He is faithful.  He has so gently carried me when I could not even stand on my own.  He has loved me even when I have not been able to do or be or bring anything to Him, other than my very broken self.

He has shown up and met us at every scary turn in this dark path I am treading; this path that I never would have chosen on my own. He has provided faithful friends, some of whom have been willing to walk alongside me and hold my hand even when I was crying out in despair, convinced that I couldn't take another step.

In spite of the tremendous amount of heartache that I am dealing with, and the overwhelming nature of my job now as a single parent, it is not all gloom and doom here.  We laugh freely, no longer afraid of random acts of violence... no longer living, cowering in our own home. Those of us who were most injured emotionally are recovering.  It is a slow process, but we are all headed the right direction now.

It is easy to assume that once a woman is out of an abusive marriage, the worst is behind her. Certainly in many ways that is true, but that minimizes the recovery process. This process, of owning my story, and admitting all that actually went on, of choosing to believe truth rather than the distorted perspective that I had to believe in order to simply survive for so many years, is more painful, and at times, debilitating, than I can yet articulate.

Do I regret leaving? Absolutely not. I regret not being able to see the abuse for what it was, and I regret not rescuing my children sooner by standing up to my then husband, and demanding that he get the help that he needed. I have learned this: It is loving to steadfastly demand that the one you love get help. And if that person refuses to admit their sin and get help, the most loving thing that you can do is to leave, and stay gone.

I have apologized to the children for not seeing things for what they were and getting out sooner. They are so sweet.  They have reassured me that they harbor no grudge against me, but have even reminded me that had I left years ago, we wouldn't have some of the youngest children. "And what would we do without Dan or Tim?" they have asked me.  Point well taken.

And since you are probably wondering, I'll share a few additional details with you. As you may have figured out, I had to leave my beloved farm home.  The children and I are settled into a home which is, in so many ways, perfect for us right now. Here too I see the Lord's hand. I do miss my farm, but honestly it takes a lot to run a farm (I had not only large gardens, but also a herd of Nubian dairy goats, plus we raised chickens for eggs and organic meat) and there is no possible way that I could have taken care of those responsibilities during the past two years.

A little sketch of our new home!

The house we live in now, while *much* smaller than my farm home, is lovely.  It is on a quiet cul-de-sac in the back of a subdivision.  Our neighbors couldn't be more wonderful and we back right up to a park with a beautiful paved exercise trail!  I have spent so many hours running and cycling there during the past year-and-a-half, both by myself and with my children.

Our back yard is so steep and heavily wooded that it has never been cleared.  It is not only lovely but also makes it feel like I am in my own personal tree fort when I look out any of the windows on the back of the house.  Plus, I don't have to worry about maintaining or mowing it!  Our front yard is so small that I actually purchased an electric lawn mower and weed eater to care for it. The small yard wouldn't work for a larger dog, but my little Corgi Jasper thinks that it is just fine.

I will also tell you that all of the children are now in public schools here. I homeschooled for 20 years and never, never thought that I'd put my children into public school, but for us, here, and now (and we do live in a good school district), this was most certainly the right decision.  It was a tremendously emotional and hard decision for me to make. Are there negatives about public school?  Certainly. There are, quite honestly, negative things about homeschooling as well. Public school has been an overwhelming positive experience for my children.

Many of their teachers and academic advisors are Christians and almost without exception, everyone that we have worked with there have been incredibly helpful, kind and supportive of the children.

Additionally, I have been so proud to watch my children make good decisions about friends and how they choose to respond to the negative things that they have been exposed to.

There is so much that I don't understand; that I'll likely never understand about why God allows and has even ordained this very hard, dark and rocky path for me. It is enough for me to know that He loves me and that He cares. Well, some days it's enough, some days, not so much!  :)

The truth is that I don't want this... this story for my life, it's not at all what I would have written, but I do want Him, and I want to follow Him with my whole heart. That's the hardest thing, isn't it? Following even when the story of our lives, this path, isn't the one we would have chosen.

And friend? You may be walking a hard path now, or you may be in the future. Almost all of us will have hard trials of one form or another before we die. Please know this: A dark and rocky path does not mean that the Lord is against you.  It does not mean that He is disappointed in you.

I hope to be able to meet you here in this place more frequently now. There is still so much that I can't verbalize and that I won't be able to write about here, but I will share encouragement and things that I am learning as I am able.

I've had caring friends ask what they can do for us. Honestly, the thing that I most need right now is your continued faithful prayers. Knowing that I do not walk this path alone means so much to me. Sometimes, when I'm really struggling I will withdraw from people and can't even articulate the depths of my pain, confusion and despair. What I really need are patient friends who are willing to come alongside me and listen, with an occasional hug thrown in for good measure.

Are you overwhelmed or despairing? If I were there with you, I'd cry with you, I'd give you a gentle hug and I'd sit with you. I'm not even going to try to offer solutions or advice, because I certainly don't have simple answers. This life is at times so hard, so unimaginably hard.

Are you familiar with the song "It is Well" by Bethel Music?  Oh!  How that song speaks to my soul!

"Through it all, through it all, my eyes are on You,
and it is well with me.
Far be it from me to not believe
even when my eyes can't see...

So let it go my soul
and trust in Him
the waves and wind still 
know His name..."

yes. The storms will rage, but the waves and wind do still know His name.

"Who then is this, that even the wind and the sea obey Him?"  Mark 4:41b

Hugs to you, my friends!  To those of you who have so faithfully kept checking in here to see if I've posted, and to those who have contacted me, to let me know that you miss me and that you've been praying, thank you. You are deeply appreciated. I've missed visiting with you here.

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

In which I share my story- part 1

I have hinted about some of the challenging things which have transpired in my life during the past 2 years, but have now decided that it is time for me to be a bit more honest here, in hopes that I can be an encouragement to others who are walking a similar path.

It is so much easier for me to avoid blogging when I am struggling, to not share the messy parts of my life. For that reason I have only posted 5 times in the past year. And honestly? This is really scary for me to publicly tell my story. It's a pretty messy story, but this is also true: God specializes in redeeming messes and bringing beauty from ashes. This I do know. I know it even when I am crying out in despair because I am in the thick of it all right now. He always meets me in those dark, dark places. Every time.

the hope of new spring growth

First of all, let me just get this out of the way. I am now divorced. I can't even tell you how much I hate even typing that word. I was married for almost 28 years and divorce was never something that I considered or even thought was an option.

I will tell you this: divorce stinks. It's as bad as I had been lead to believe, and even worse. This is true as well though: living in a peaceful home, without fear, without the drama, without the abuse (yes, not only am I using to use the "d-word", but also the "a-word") is something that we are all deeply grateful for.

spring daffodils dancing in the breeze

For 26 years I was silent about all that the children and I were subjected to. I was afraid. I was terribly confused about what was "normal" and mistakenly believed that if I would just ___________ (fill in the blank - read my Bible more, pray more diligently, submit better), things would improve.

During all of those years I did not tell my best friends or even my parents about anything that happened. I know, it's really difficult to understand, unless you have been in an abusive relationship. (It's difficult to understand even when you have been in an abusive relationship!) When I began to realize how wrong many of the things were that had happened in our family, at the hand of our abuser, I realized that I needed to be brave and reach out to a friend.

I initially chose an out of town friend, that I had known for many years (since my college days... which is, ahem, a few years ago!). I trusted her and knew that she loved the Lord and would give me conservative, truthful counsel. I was afraid that I was overreacting and that the events which had so wounded the children and me were actually "normal."

She was going to be in town and we had already planned to meet for lunch, just to chat and catch up on life. As we talked I timidly began to share some of the things which had happened and, if anything, tried to downplay each of the very few events which I bravely shared. She was aghast and cried and prayed with me as we talked. In hindsight, I am so grateful that she responded so passionately and truthfully to my disclosure. If she had minimized what we were living through, I probably would have been even more hesitant to call my marriage what it was... an abusive marriage, and seek help for the children and me.

Part of the reason that I am choosing to share this here, in this venue, is that I now know that of all of the readers that I am addressing, there are, most certainly, others who are living what my children and I lived for so many years, and oh (!!) how my heart goes out to you. To my remaining readers who are not in an abusive marriage or relationship, the odds are great that at some time you will have a friend or acquaintance who is in a situation similar to mine.

Let me pause for a moment here to share a definition of abuse, which I first read on the excellent website A Cry for Justice:
Very few people know what abuse really is, though everyone seems quite ready to give advice to its victims. If you believe that abuse is physical battering, you have some learning to do.
Abuse is fundamentally a mentality. It is a mindset of entitlement. The abuser sees himself* as entitled. He is the center of the world, and he demands that his victim make him the center of her world. His goal is power and control over others. For him, power and control are his natural right, and he feels quite justified in using whatever means are necessary to obtain that power and control. The abuser is not hampered in these efforts by the pangs of a healthy conscience and indeed often lacks a conscience.
While this mentality of power and control often expresses itself in various forms of physical abuse, it just as frequently employs tactics of verbal, emotional, financial, social, sexual and spiritual abuse. Thus, an abuser may never actually lay a hand on his wife and yet be very actively terrorizing her in incredibly damaging ways.
Abuse in any of its forms destroys the victim's person. Abuse, in the end, is murder.
* Sometimes the genders are reversed.
Additionally I have begun a page listing resources which have been helpful for me. The link is at the top of my blog.

Back to my story: Once I stood up to our abuser, things became exponentially worse. I finally was forced to take my children and flee. I don't even know how to express how grateful I am that my parents have been so supportive and helped us escape.

The past 17 months since we left have been the hardest, darkest times of my life. I am now a single parent to the ten children who are still living at home and in school. (I also have 2 adult children who are out on their own) Single parenting so many children is more challenging, and at times overwhelming than I will even try to explain right now. But we are safe and now have our own peaceful home. How wonderful it is to feel safe!

In part 2 I will share a bit more about the past 17 months of our life and what it has been to walk this path and gradually begin to heal from many, many years of abuse.

This I will say: God is good. He is! He has so gently and faithfully walked with us down this path ~ a path I never would have chosen, which has so often been very dark. He has provided for us through faithful loving family and friends. As challenging (and honestly, many days "challenging" is an understatement) as this is, I am confident that He will continue to lead and care for us.

Next, part 2 of my story, in which I will tell you a bit about the past year-and-a-half and about how the Lord has met us and cared for us in so many ways.

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Hello there!

My dear friends, after many months I am finally nearing a place where I can actively post here on my blog.  I hope to frequent this spot on a more regular basis in the near future, but I did want to at least stop in briefly to say "hello" and let you know that I have missed visiting with you, my online friends.

The children and I are doing well.  God is good.

Thank you for praying for us and for your loving support us as we have walked a challenging path this past year.