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.