Tuesday, 10 December 2013

Life goes on..

It is a crazy hectic time, this time of year. I have a birthday in the family (my soon-to-be 10 yr old!! where did the decade go!?) and with Christmas, New Year's, managing school around church and special programs and family events.. Well, I'm sure most moms get my pain here.

This year it's busier than most. Not only do I have to manage around my schedule, and my side of the family's schedule, but now I have my stbx husband's family and my oldest's father's family to try to schedule in too. And.. being a single parent at home, chaos is simply the name of the game some days.

Baby girl is growing like a weed! She has been chomping away on solid foods for two months now, though still nursing around the clock. She learned to sit up about 2 weeks ago, and is now beginning to crawl. She is a busy, happy baby, who also said her first word -- a happy, insistent "Mama!" first thing in the morning as she woke up in her crib and saw me across the room asleep. It was 6 am, so of course she had to wake me up.. hehe.

2 yr old girl is an intent toddler, who loves her trains. We have one of those wooden Thomas the Train Engine sets, and she has claimed it. She has also, unfortunately, learned about temper tantrums. There are days I have to bite my lip to keep from laughing as this willful little girl stomps her feet and tells me she's mad at me, because I won't let her have her way. I discipline appropriately, of course, and then turn away and just smile at this adorable curly-headed little girl so determined. The old nursery rhyme plays so true here, especially since she does have this perfect ringlet that always falls in the middle of her forehead. For the unfamiliar:

There was a little girl
Who had a little curl
Right in the middle of her forehead.
When she was good
She was very, very good,
When she was bad, she was horrid!

3 yr old girl (Yes I know, they are all about 18 months apart-- didn't I say that before?) is a curious, bright, curious, active, extraordinarily curious little girl. Did I mention she has an overdeveloped sense of curiosity? My mother says she is so much like me, it gives her flashbacks. She touches everything! She is always asking "why". She wants to know what everything is, what it's for, and why we do that. She loves doing preschool with me, and is always asking for more. And her imagination is out of this world! Such a delight and a joy.. and a stretch for me, which is good. 

5 yr old girl is gorgeous as always. She is learning and growing and I can see the development coming. She's still "behind" her peers, but in our house, she fits in just fine. She is learning her letters and numbers, and she surprises me every day. I love how she reminds me to celebrate all things girly and feminine. She pauses to notice the beautiful, the sparkly, the pretty things of life, and needs the space to process emotionally. She is NOT quiet, and lives life right out there in public. Between her and the 3 yr old, there is always music, noise and laughter in my house, when they're awake. 

9 yr old, almost 10 yr old, is growing into an amazing young woman. Developing right before my eyes, she is delighting me with her responsibility and good sense. I thank God and try not to pull a muscle patting myself on the back, lol! We have been having some great conversations in the vehicle as we drive to and from places, with all the errands lately. I love these "teachable" moments, and I've been trying to take advantage of every single one I can get with her. 

Me? I am coping quite well, I think. Some days better than others, obviously. There are days when I hit the ground running and make every goal for myself, and fall into bed exhausted and satisfied. There are days when I look for the reset button, because nothing seems to have worked the way I hoped. There are days when it's all I can do to keep from crying, so my girls and I cuddle, play, read stories and try not to stress too much. But I have learned that I take each day as it comes, hope for the best, prepare for the worst and take care of myself so I can take care of the little ones God entrusted to me. 

My current focus is my home-based business (look me up at www.eveventure.com/lifechoices). I homeschool in the mornings, and fit in chores, but my afternoons and evenings tend to be devoted to work. I am pushing hard, because I need the income, for one, but also because I need to know that I can do it, that I am capable. I have felt so overwhelmed.. like I'm only pretending to be an adult and one of these days someone will see it and call me on it. I'm learning to recognize that this isn't true. I am an adult, a responsible, capable, talented and skilled one, and I can do this. 

My relationship with God is becoming more personal, more revealing. This has been a daily prayer for months, if not years, and I find I'm finally realizing it. Even though my days are so full, and a daily "devotion" time isn't really an option at this season, the Holy Spirit brings scripture back daily, hourly even. I will begin to worry about something, and all of a sudden a verse or passage or story comes to mind that calms my fears, and I relax. I know God's got this. I know what He promised, and I know who I am in Jesus. Life may not be perfect, I may be hurting, but I know who my Redeemer is, and I know He lives, He lives in me. 

This time last year, I was miserable. I was so confused, I was in danger of making one of the biggest mistakes of my life. I was 6 months pregnant, and so afraid. I look back and realize what a huge difference God has made in my life. He set me free. Not in the way I'd hoped, but no one can make another person do something against their will, not even God. But I'm still set free. I'm not miserable. I'm following His leading. Some may think I am making the biggest mistake, and while this is never God's perfect will.. neither was staying where I was. I have a gorgeous family, and while I'm sad that it may never be completed, I've come to terms with that, and I have peace. I'm not afraid anymore, at least not every day, like I was. 

Unfortunately, I am still afraid, at times. My stbx is quite intimidating, and has no self-control. Each interaction with him is a risk. All I can do is create the best environment to minimize that risk. Right now that means we aren't ever alone with him. At the same time, I'm extremely grateful that he has made my life easier by giving me the use of a vehicle. I thank God for working on his heart that much. 

So.. life goes on. We are growing, learning, living, thriving. Dynamics change daily, and while in some ways it feels so repetitive (wake, dress kids, feed them, teach them, chores, work, feed kids, undress, bed) no two days are ever exactly alike. Kind of like the snowflakes that are falling -similar yet so unique,they are the crystaline moments that create beauty every day  And as I cultivate this attitude of gratefulness, Jesus is closer to me everyday. Life is good. 

Thursday, 14 November 2013

Love, life and loss

My little brother is now a married man. It seems incredible to me, and at the same time, there's part of me that says, "It's about time!". I still have a hard time thinking of him as a man, really. I see him as a boy every time I look at one of my blonde daughters. The family resemblance there is uncanny.. in the shape of the head, in the expression of the mouth.. His bride is gorgeous, inside and out. I barely know her, and I adore her.

Attending their wedding was an amazing, though very painful experience, given my circumstances. It didn't help that my estranged husband attended as well, and as circumstances demanded, I ended up spending a good portion of the day with him. There were so many times that I was thinking, "I wish that was true for us," or "I wish that was something I had.. " So many regrets.. 

The reception was the hardest, for many reasons. I had some emotional wounds revealed and reopened by my parents, and some wistful and wishful thinking when I listened to my brother. My estranged husband was sitting next to me, and as I was listening to the beautiful words my brother spoke about his bride, I could feel his eyes on me, and I wondered..  

I have always said that I had never seen a married couple that showed me enough to make me want to be married. I can't say that anymore. The way my brother looked at his bride, the words he spoke about her and to her... I know they're newlyweds, but it was different. He didn't speak of the happiness she brought him, he spoke of his desire to make her happy. He didn't speak of how much she loved him, he spoke of how much better she made him for knowing her. He didn't speak of what she gave him, but of what he wanted to give her. He didn't speak of taking, or enjoying, or getting.. he spoke of service, and sacrifice, and real, unconditional love. And I realized that's what I want to be able to say. 

But life goes on.

I have struggled in the past few weeks with depression. It's been hard just to get up in the morning. Not from lack of sleep, though that probably isn't helping, but because I feel so hopeless. I get up for my children, because they need me. I find joy in them, though I find it hard to smile any other time. I am deep in grief for my marriage, and I find it hard sometimes just to breathe through the pain.

 It isn't physical. If it were, I would be able to manage better. It is the wounding of a soul, as two who were one now become two again. And with every interaction with my estranged husband, this ripping away becomes more obvious. I don't know if it is because he is oblivious to his running over me, or if it is my pulling away in self-preservation, but there is growing distance.. a chasm between us. 

I am attempting to simply keep the peace, at the moment. I manage each interaction, hiding myself, hiding my feelings, allowing many things that hurt to go unchecked, in view of the larger picture of not risking confrontation. And I make preparations. Taking steps.. steps that will lead me up and away from the prison that is this relationship. 

I can't let myself think too much. My brain stays on static or occupied with the mundane, everyday affairs of children, house, education, holidays and birthdays, so I won't think about this emotional death. I fear being sucked under, and I'm attempting to just float on top of this turbulent sea. 

I need time.. I know subconsciously I am processing, healing, dealing with all the emotional incidents of my life. I am finding some strength returning as I wait. I wait on the Lord. He is my vindicator, He is my refuge, and I rest in His hands. He is my life-source, He loves me and I will never lose it. 

Saturday, 19 October 2013

Regret and Responsibility

I have been dealing with some accusations regarding my marriage lately that have made me angry, and I wonder if there is truth to them. Am I wrong in the decisions I've made lately? Part of me wonders if it really was "that bad".. bad enough to choose this direction. Was there something else I could have done, should have done? Is this my fault?

Am I wrong? I don't believe so. I honestly believe that I tried everything else. I believe this is my last option. I don't think I am doing something wrong by choosing to separate. I don't think I am in sin by choosing to use the legal system to protect myself and my children. I don't believe I am wrong to say enough is enough, and no more will I allow someone to treat me as less than human.

Was it really that bad? This one is hard. The human heart holds onto the good so easily and forgets the pain so quickly. We look back at the "good ol' days" and pine for a "better time", thinking our past was better than our present. We forget the trials of yesterday, getting lost of the anxiety of tomorrow. So I re-read my journals, my message board thread, my blog and force myself to remember that .. yes, it was horrible. It was tense, it was scary, it was forever watching what I said, what I did so as not to upset someone else, it was bondage and captivity. And I remember the sense of relief, of freedom, of breath and air and emotion that I've received since.  Yes.. yes it was bad enough to choose this direction. Something had to be done.

Was there something else I could have done? I again have to say, I honestly believe I tried everything else. I don't think I could have done anything else. I have been told I waited longer, gave more chances, offered more forgiveness and trust and willingness to work and commitment than was expected of me. I don't know what else I could have done?

Is this my fault? Yes.. and no. Yes, it is my fault. I chose to separate. I chose to pursue legal options. I chose to say enough. But no.. I did not choose to be ignored. I did not ask to be treated with such disrespect. I did not want to be terrified of saying or do something that would trigger a rage. I did not choose to live in fear. I am not responsible to control someone else's actions, words or emotions. It is not my fault.

What am I responsible for? I am responsible for the times when I spoke in anger, when I held a grudge, when I did not give grace, extend mercy. I am responsible for my hatred, my unforgiving attitude, my sarcasm, my mistrust. I am responsible for not asking for help sooner, for hiding our relationship issues and pretending all was well when it wasn't, for lying to protect myself, for hiding things from him. I am responsible for my own feelings, my own actions, my own words -- and not everything was right.

But not everything was wrong either. I did ask for help, eventually. I did tell the truth, eventually. I learned to forgive -- and to set boundaries. I learned to let go -- and to stay quiet. I learned to give grace, to extend mercy, as God gave me grace and mercy. I learned (and I am learning) that is ok to not be perfect, that I don't have to pretend, and that I don't have to hide. I am becoming more genuine, gaining more integrity, and speaking truth in love.

No.. I did not do everything perfectly. I wish I did. I have many regrets. But ultimately, ending my marriage was not an easy decision, made lightly or impulsively. It was hard, after years of trying everything else, and decisions were made sorrowfully and prayerfully. I trust that God will bring something out of this for my good, and for my children's good.

I stand by my decision. I think I made the right one. I'm not going to change it, for good or ill. I will follow God's leading, and right now.. He is leading this captive out.

Thursday, 17 October 2013

Alone, yet not alone

Ever been in a big crowd.. and felt very alone? It's not a good feeling. There may be dozens or even hundreds of people around you, but no one is there with you. You might as well not be there, that anyone takes notice of you.

This is how I've felt my entire marriage. In fact, most of my life. I may be surrounded by people. I have spent hours of time with someone. I have sat side by side, even holding hands.. and still felt like I could have been on the moon for all the notice I was given. Alone, yet not alone.

It's hard to describe the loneliness of a difficult marriage. Marriage is supposed to be about unity, a oneness-- not a singleness. It's supposed to be the ultimate expression of relationship, not separate-ness. So when you feel single and separate from the one you are married to, the pain of loneliness there is worse than if you were actually single and separate.

To be alone, yet not alone is agonizing.  There are benefits to solitude, to being truely alone -- relaxation, silence, the ability to do and think for yourself. But when you're alone, yet with someone, you get none of the benefits of being alone, and none of the benefits of being with someone. You aren't alone, in that there is someone there -- you may even have conversation, or shared occupation, but at the same time, you have no connection.

Connection is what we crave, as human beings. It's what we were designed for. We were created for connection; connection with our God, and with our fellow humans. We were made for relationship, soul-deep, satisfying relationship. But a marriage without connection is lonely.

Now that I'm truely alone, I find it easier, less lonely. Not saying I don't get lonely, because believe me, I do, but the loneliness isn't as stark, as obvious. Nothing is worse than seeing the water behind impenetrable glass, when you're desperately thirsty, to highlight your thirst. You can't focus on anything else but the thirst you are suffering. And when you're alone in the one relationship that God designed to be the most intimate, connected relationship we can have this side of heaven -- all it does is highlight your loneliness.

My stbx is in a trial mode, where he is attempting to be "nice", gentle and kind and thoughtful.. and all the things he thinks a good husband and father should be. It's hard to endure, because there is still no desire for connection with me behind it. He's doing it because.. he wants to look good, he thinks he has to, he still wants control over the relationship (not let me determine when it's ended).. for whatever reason. It is difficult for me. In one sense, I feel guilted in to letting him attempt this, on the justification that repetition creates habits, and perhaps his actions may lead to the right motivations. In another, I feel violated, that my boundaries are being tested beyond what I want, and that I'm being pushed into something I have no desire for any longer. And ultimately, I feel less understood, more ignored and more disconnected from the one person I should have been most connected to. I feel more alone than ever.

It is times like these that I "lift my eyes up to the hills", as the psalmist said. I know my help comes from the Maker of Heaven and Earth, and that He is my refuge, my "strong tower". I remind myself of His promises, never to leave me nor forsake me. I treasure the passage that says that before I was formed in my mother's womb, He knew me, and again, that my name is written on the palms of His hands.

The song I listen to most right now, that is speaking to me most, is Blessed Redeemer by Casting Crowns.

Blessed Redeemer, Precious Redeemer
Seems now I see Him, on Calvary's tree
Wounded and bleeding, for sinners pleading, blind and unheeding
Dying for me

He wanted me so much, He gave up His life just for a chance, a hope of having a relationship with me. Not even for the sure thing, just the hope. I am awed and amazed. When I think of what He did, I feel cherished, desired. No one has ever wanted me that much. And I don't think I will ever settle for less again.

Wednesday, 9 October 2013

Dreams .. do not always come true..

I never thought I was a "fairy-tale-ending" type of girl. I love reading them, but I never thought I would get one. You know, the type where she's leaving or in trouble, and the guy wakes up, realizes he loves her and rushes to rescue her, the kind of story where it ends with the couple in each other's arms, and you know they will live "happily ever after".

I've never had someone love me like that.

And I just realized.. I want that. I am a closet romantic, though a lot of the big traditional romantic gestures leave me embarrassed and uncomfortable. But I want someone to come after me, no matter what I say, what I do.. to push through my walls and find out who I really am, and still want to be with me. I want that "wake up" moment.

You would think marriage would have provided some of that. But no, even during my marriage, what I got was slammed doors and silence, with the occasional chocolate bar to buy my peace. To this day, I don't enjoy chocolate bars as much, especially those that used to be my favorites. I didn't get passion and pursuit.. I got ignored, and when not ignored, abused.

It makes me sad. It also makes me realize that I will never again settle for less.

I settled for less when I married. I understand that now. I settled for the appearance of religion rather than a man who truly knew God and loved Him. I settled for convenience rather than commitment. I allowed him to just play house, rather than build a family, and a legacy. And I paid for it. I made a mistake.

I ignored the warning signs -- the aggression, the lack of financial stability, the "loans" I made him, got for him, the lack of ambition, the lack of plans for a future. I ignored the spiritual imbalance, the emotional immaturity that was obvious, and even the fact that I was already being taken advantage of. I even dismissed the warnings I was given by family and friends before my wedding. For what? Because I was afraid of being alone. Of being a single unwed mother.. again.

They say if you can dream it, you can do it. But dreams do not always come true. Sometimes it's because the dream isn't a good one. Sometimes because it's simply impossible. And sometimes.. sometimes it's because you tried, and you failed. You made a mistake, took a wrong turn, had an error in judgement.

I made a mistake, but I don't have to do it twice. In fact.. I did do it twice. So I'm a slow learner when it comes to this relationship thing. I can learn. And I will learn.

I'm no Disney princess. But I am a royal princess. I'm the daughter of the King of kings. And I think, if there's a next time, and that's a big IF!, I'll wait for my Daddy-God to pick the prince instead. Then maybe I won't end up with just the frog.

Monday, 7 October 2013

Fragile Feelings

Today was hard. I feel very fragile emotionally. And I don't feel free to show it, necessarily. I have very young children, who don't need to see their mother break down. Don't get me wrong, I do show my emotions around my girls, but they don't need to see me lose it, and that's exactly what I was on the verge of doing.

So I busied myself away from them for a bit. I cried in the bathroom, and sobbed while doing laundry. I was able to get control again, and be mama again after a few minutes, but I still feel raw. I find my throat hurts lots these days, from unshed tears.

The odd thing -- I still don't miss the man or the marriage. It's the heartbreaking thoughts of what could have been, what should have been .. what would have been if only he'd .. if only I could have.. These what-if thoughts drive me crazy. Moments like planning for Christmas this year, or going on a trip, only now without their father, make me hurt so bad for them.

My own loneliness doesn't seem as bad as it once was. Loneliness is magnified when you're ignored. Now, I'm just alone, not necessarily lonely. But I find myself acknowledging things I never wanted to admit. For example, I do want the companionable silence of marriage. But in order for silence in marriage to be companionable, there needs to be a friendship -- and that was never a part of my marriage.

I am trying to plan for my future, as a single woman. I don't believe I will ever have the opportunity for another committed relationship, and I know I will settle for nothing less, so I am putting aside those hopes. It seems like it was just a vague dream anyway, something I never really understood, let alone wanted. I have my family now, and I will be content with this.  I am trying to look forward, so envision what God may have in store for me. All the while, I mourn the passing of a future I thought I may have, that turned out to be mist and vapour, blown away in the wind.

Wednesday, 2 October 2013

Grief and growth..

As it stands right now, my marriage is over. My soon-to-be-ex husband views me as an object to get something from, as opposed to a person he can give to and who will give in return.  After 3 years now in counselling, my counsellors have told me that I should just go ahead and end the relationship.

I have been grieving this loss. I have lost not only my marriage, but my hope has died, my dreams are beyond reach, and my family is broken. I imagine that the death of a spouse would actually be better, because I would rest in the knowledge that my spouse loved me, even though he was gone. My husband doesn't love me, and doesn't want to, and that hurts worse than any physical attack.

I grieve the hope of a shared future, of future children. I mourn the loss of plans we -- apparently just me, in reality -- had, of making this house a home, of learning and growing and developing as a family. I feel lost, thinking about the impact we could have had, the influence and the ministry we might have had.  I feel robbed of security, of hope, of love and trust. I wish things were different.

I admit that I expected more and I am disappointed. I feel foolish too, because I look back and wonder if I had made different choices, would I be in this position, and I know I could have changed things. I have regrets, and at the same time, I am grateful.

As much as it hurts to end a relationship, there is a sense of relief too. The pain of an unfulfilled relationship is over. The abuses and hurts inflicted on me have ended, and I have the space and freedom to heal.

I trust God. I know my Father will redeem me. I know that my broken heart is safe in His hands. I am not anxious, though I am sad. I know this was not God's will -- God's will is for restoration, for renewal -- but I recognize my ex's right to choose. I also know that God promised to work all things together for my good, because I love Him, and it is His will that I have a future hope. I will grieve and heal, and I will look forward to better things.

I have grown closer to my first love. The distractions of my emotional confusion, my heart's desires and my mind's distrust, have cleared away, and my eyes turn back to my Saviour and my Best Friend, Jesus. I have been let down, again, and I am reminded that the only one who will never, never, never ever leave me or turn His back on me is Jesus. My mind goes back to the moments in the past where I was held by Him, where He provided, where He comforted.  I live in moment to moment, refusing to worry about my uncertain future, and refusing to be bitter about my unhappy past.

I am grieving... but I am growing.

Wednesday, 11 September 2013

Making Choices..

Being a Christian is an interesting thing. Paul describes being a Christian as having liberty. We have been set free from sin, we have been freed from the bonds and chains of this sinful nature.  `Everything is permissable`, Paul wrote.

What have we been freed to though.. What are we now free to do

Ultimately, when Jesus died on that cross, and when He defeated death and the grave, He redeemed us back to what God had given humanity in the beginning: the power of choice.

Through Jesus, we are free to choose. We can freely choose to love, to serve, to give. Or we can freely choose to turn away. (This would be why that once you`ve been saved, if you then reject the gospel, and reject your salvation, there is no more salvation available to you -- you resold your power to choose, and Jesus isn`t going to die again for you to get it back).

However, sometimes as Christians, we lack awareness of this freedom to choose. That`s why we tend to sin so frequently, and why we feel like we are continually struggling. Being a Christian means that we can no long live life on autopilot, because the autopilot program is corrupted. Now that you have that freedom to choose, you also have the responsibility to actually make a decision, and not just react on instinct or habit in the moment.

God gives us the recipe to develop this awareness of our choices: it`s called `renewing your mind`. The degree to which we renew our minds is the degree that we are aware of our choices and able to decide among them. (This would be why reading scripture frequently is helpful -- it keeps constantly in the forefront of your mind the idea that you can choose what you will do, how you will respond, and changes how you think -- renews your mind).

Old habits are ingrained in our brains. The more you follow a certain pattern of thought and behaviour, the faster the physical neurons in your brain connect, and the easier that connection is made. Like water, your thoughts and actions will tend to follow the easiest path, so it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. You will do what you`ve always done -- unless you choose otherwise.

The point is that we have this power to choose, and the more aware we are of our choices, the easier it is to choose -- and the more you make the right choice, the easier it is to make the right choice again. You will retrain your brain.

Humanity was designed to live inside time. We make choices based on what happened, what is happening and what is going to happen -- the past, the present and the future. However, our lack of awareness of our choices will make us unaware of the time as well. God did call us to `redeem the time`.

If we live solely in the past, we will become indecisive. So caught up in what happened, we will be victims, and feel helpless and powerless. We will be unaware of the present moment, the choices facing us, and completely ignorant of the future consequences. We will live passively, letting life just happen to us, instead of deciding for ourselves what we will do, and what we will make happen.

If we live solely in the present, we will become impulsive. Living in the moment is spontaneous and fun, but dangerous too. We will be forget all about the past, and its lessons to be learned. Someone once said, `Those who forget history are doomed to repeat it.` and it`s very true. Those who ignore the past make the same decisions over and over again (old habits die hard, and old thought patterns become ingrained). We will also forget all about the future, and its impending consequences. Then we constantly wonder why the same things happen over and over again. This life choice leads to insanity, doing the same thing over again and expecting a different result.

If we live solely in the future, we will be come overly anxious. We will forget about the past, and the victories and successes there, and we will forget the mistakes made so we do not repeat them. We will miss the moment of decision, paralyzed by the thought of the consequences of every choice, by not being aware of the present. We will wonder constantly `what if, what if` and never be able to appreciate what we have. This leads to discontentment, and a constant search for security, or a way to numb the pain of worry.

In order to really choose, we have to be aware and live in the whole of time. Sometimes, it seems animals do this better than we humans do. An animal will learn from the past -- that`s why they can be trained. Animals are very (very!) aware of the present -- that`s why they are opportunists. And animals plan for the future -- `look to the ant, you sluggard!`   We humans need to live similarly, dealing with and learning from our past, in order to plan for our future, so that in the present moment our choices will be right and good.

The first thing we need to do in order to make a good choice is to deal with the past. We all have things we wish we hadn`t done.  We all have painful memories, regrets and sorrow about the past. In order to not live there, we must deal with these things. We must come to terms with the fact that no matter what it was, we had a choice (even when we were legitimately a victim, there is still a choice -- a choice of response. The good thing is that choice can be made in the present, even when the victimization happened a long time in the past!) We must also learn to recognize all the consequences of our past choices, even when they are uncomfortable. Sometimes this means we must admit we made a mistake. And that we must forgive ourselves for that mistake, recognizing that Jesus has already forgiven us. Once we`ve dealt with the past, we can learn from it. We can learn which decisions led to consequences we didn`t like, and purpose to not make those mistakes again. We can figure out what we want, what we like, what we value, and what`s truly important. In short, the past shapes our identity.

The second thing we need to do in order to make good decisions is to plan for the future. All those `what if`questions will disappear when we have a plan. You can`t decide anything if you don`t know where that decision fits in the bigger picture. Having a plan for the future means having a guide for all your decisions. But in order to have a plan, first you must find out who you are (dealing with the past).  You need to know what you want, what you like, what you value before you can develop the plan that will get you there. Once you have a plan, all your decisions fall into place, and we can decide for the consequences that further the plans we have, and decide against those things that will hinder the plans we have. You can`t know what you will do, what you want, until you know who you are, and what your purpose is. Your identity shapes your destiny.

You can`t know what to do until you know who you are and what you want. You can`t know what to do until you know how you`re going to get what you want. And you can`t know who you are and what you were made for, until you know God. One thing you can know for sure, and this is a great starting point, is resting assured that God made you, God loves you, and God has a plan for you.

Deal with the past and learn who you are. Plan for the future and learn where you`re going. Then the present will fall into place. Your decisions will be guided by your values and your goals. If your identity and destiny are rooted in Christ Jesus, your decisions will be based on who He is, and what He wants. Then the promises of God come into effect:

`And we know all things work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose.`
`Delight yourself in the Lord and he will give you the desires of your heart.`
`Trust in the Lord and lean not on your own understanding; commit all your ways to him and he will direct your paths.`
`With God all things are possible.`
`Happy is the man who trusts in the Lord ... he shall have good success.`
`I would that you will prosper in all things, even as your soul prospers`

Becoming aware of your power to choose, renewing your mind, and redeeming the time = the Christian walk. It`s not easy. It`s not that hard either. It does require effort, but it is rather simple. It`s a `light yoke and easy burden`. It`s `picking up your cross daily to follow`.

It all starts with a choice.

Monday, 9 September 2013

Endings and beginnings.. Part 8


The counselling program was my lifeline. I checked my email constantly, hoping for encouragement, and I called in regularly to the group counselling calls. I grew more and more discouraged.

I tried setting boundaries, healthy boundaries, this time.. asking for appropriate affection and communication. My boundaries were crossed, every time. My requests were ignored, and my no's were also ignored. After one morning of feeling used, again, and crying.. I realized that nothing was changing.. or rather that it was changing, and not in the direction I wanted it to go.

By the end of the third month, I was emotionally depleted, and physically drained. I had nothing left to give, and nothing left to fight with... and felt like I had nothing to fight for. I asked my husband to leave, on the last day of the month. The counsellors we talked to asked him to leave two days before that.. and he did.  By the end of the month, he had packed up most of his clothes and necessities, and he was moved out.

These last two weeks have been both a relief and a sorrow. Physically and emotionally, I feel as though I've regained strength. But I am despairing at my marriage...

We continue in the counselling program, which has a high rate of success, when the husband whole-heartedly participates. However... I have my doubts about my husband's heart.

** For information on the counselling program used, please go to www.godsavemymarriage.com **

Friday, 6 September 2013

Here we go again... Part 7


In the fall, we continued to struggle. And then it happened.. we had a major fight, that resulted in horrific actions. My husband, in his raging, grabbed my daughter's school project, and threw it on the floor, breaking it to pieces and yelling, scaring both me and our small children. I stood up and asked him to leave, right then and there, .. and he refused. Finally he walked out, after walking in and out several times, intimidating me and yelling the whole time. Terrified of his return, I waited a few minutes, and shakingly dressed my children in coats and buckled into strollers, and walked them over to my brother-in-law's house.

I walked in their door, and promptly burst into tears. I was scared, shaking, and just hoping for release. My worst nightmare had come true, and here I was pregnant with baby number 5. My inlaws calmed me, and watched my children, while I pulled myself together. My husband showed up, and apologized nicely, and everyone convinced me to go back home.

I regret that, actually..

Things were never the same, after that. I jumped constantly at his every emotion, trying to read him and make sure he was never enraged again. I kept my oldest with me as much as I could, in an attempt to protect her from his verbal attacks. I found the marriage ministry that I had briefly discovered when we moved in together again, and I jumped on it with both feet, connecting with online and phone counsellors. And I prayed harder..

As my due date neared, things were falling apart. Another rage happened, and this time one of our children was nearly hurt seriously by his out of control actions. I was ready to leave, but felt trapped by my impending delivery, and our small children. I clung to the counsellors, and to my God..

Our baby was born during a storm -- not emotional, but natural -- but it seems symbolic, somehow. We named her everlasting mercy (the meaning of her name), and I know she is my reminder that God gives us the things we don't deserve, for ever and ever..

When she was just a few weeks old, I sat my husband down, and gave him my ultimatum. Either get with the program.. or get out. I was done with abuse, I was done with feeling unsafe, I was done, period. I asked him to show me he was serious about being married.

He agreed to do what I asked, and participate in the counselling program. He connected with counsellors, read the books they asked him to read, and watched the seminars on dvd. But his attitude, his actions and his words didn't really change. He still attacked my oldest daughter verbally, and I still watched his every move to try to anticipate his moods. I still didn't feel safe.

Thursday, 5 September 2013

God's recipe for families

It was a special fall, in a time that I expected and hoped for so much. I sat writing with my newborn daughter on a blanket at my feet. My toddler and preschooler were outside with their older sister, enjoying the brisk fall weather and each other. My husband was watching and playing with them, and I was relaxing in the comfort of my parents' home. My mother had supper cooking in the slow cooker, and the smells of warm stew were teasing my appetite. My father had a fire on in their fireplace, cozying up their already inviting home. 

This, to me, is family.

Comfort, warmth, food and friendship are what most of us think about at certain times of year. When we gather together with loved ones, we celebrate family, create memories and build relationships.

As believers, family is even more special, for many reasons. We have a larger family than just related by blood or marriage but is also created by faith. Family is the form of the Church, the foundation of society and the fundamental representation of the Triune God. It is by family that we learn to relate to each other, to God and to the world.

God has instructions for family as He does for every other area of life. Family is incredibly important to God, and should be also vital to the Christian. In fact, the main qualification for any type of leadership in the Church is that one's family has been and continues to be well managed and an example of faithfulness, respect, love, and kindness. Paul states that if we cannot lead our own families well, we have no business trying to lead the church.

A godly family begins with a godly, solid marriage. In the beginning, God created human beings to be together in families, and joined the first couple in marriage Himself. Their relationship was without barriers, originally, and they had complete intimacy, physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually. They had complete trust in each other and in God. God designed us to long for that connection to another person: to be completely known... and accepted! This intimate, connected relationship is where our strengths shine and our weaknesses are protected. United in marriage, our efforts are multiplied, and our impact magnified.

A godly marriage starts with God. When both partners have a personal relationship with God, like a triangle, they grow closer together as they grow closer to God. Godly marriages are strengthened by our willingness to be honest, open and vulnerable. Paradoxically, we build a strong marriage by being willing to reveal weakness. Marriage is then fulfilled in our unity and teamwork. We are fully "one flesh" when our first response is about "we" not "me".

It is in family that we best exemplify the Image of God. Genesis 1:27 says that man was created in His image, male and female. Together we fully show who God is. It begins with marriage, and is completed with the first command God gave human beings: to be fruitful and multiply. God looks generationally. His promises to Abraham and his descendants were constantly to “you and your children.” Children are compared to “gifts”, “rewards”, and “crowns”. It is the security of a godly marriage, founded on God’s principles, that children best grow and thrive, and the Godly family achieves God’s purpose.

In order to have a godly family, godly parenting is key. Scripture says that the essential ingredients of godly parenting are consistent teaching, compassionate discipline and communal responsibility. Deuteronomy 6:5 instructs parents to teach their children the laws of the Lord, at every single moment of life, and not just with words, but with their example as well. Consistency is integral to effective parenting. If your words don’t match your actions, children are confused and often rebel. Proverbs lists the value of discipline in correcting children and preventing future pain for both child and parents, and Ephesians 6:6 expands on that by admonishing parents to temper their discipline with understanding, lest they provoke rebellion in their children. Psalms declares that God disciplines us like a father disciplines the son he delights in, showing us that it takes love and compassion to discipline appropriately. The examples given us in Joshua, 1 and 2 Samuel, 1 and 2 Kings of how the sins of one person affected the whole community show how God views the community’s responsibility of the raising of children. Leviticus gave instructions to parents on how to handle rebellious children, with the community’s help. In Matthew 18, Jesus also told us how to handle those who offend us, including our children, by appealing to the larger community of which we are a part, such as our local church. Godly parenting involves all these elements to raise godly children.

The effects of godly marriage and godly children are evidenced in the impact on the world. In Psalms 134, God compares godly children to arrows in a trained warrior’s quiver, going far beyond him to hit the target and accomplish a purpose. God can use our children to accomplish His purposes. In Psalm 139, God declared that each of us was uniquely created, and in Jeremiah 29, God promised a future and a hope for us. In families, we are trained, nurtured and prepared for that future. In Isaiah, God told us that He puts the lonely in families. Families are God’s way of showing His love to the world.

The holidays are soon upon us again.  This year, for my family, it is exciting, but bittersweet, with our new addition, a wedding, and a marital breakdown. My daughters are excitedly anticipating being able to share their favourite traditions with their new baby sister, and our extended family is greatly looking forward to meeting her. My brother is getting married, and my second daughter is thrilled to be their flower girl. Yet, I struggle with the pain and sorrow surrounding my own marriage. 

We do have more to celebrate this year. We also have more to mourn. Every year, however, we can celebrate God’s love and provision for us, in giving us a family, whatever that may look like. God puts us in families, whether that is the family of our birth, or the family of our second birth, the church. The community of family is so important to God. God started His story with a family, and finishes it with a family.

The Godly family is love in action. Thank God for His family, and for our families.

Monday, 2 September 2013

Surprise! Attempting reconciliation... Part 6


The new year started with some good resolutions.. and a big surprise. On January 4th, I discovered I was pregnant.. again! It was a shock and at first I didn't even believe it. But two weeks later a follow up ultrasound confirmed that another baby was on its way. 

I told my husband who was ecstatic with the news. Apparently the Christmas present I had given him was going to keep on giving.. for 9 more months! And all my intentions of a slow, paced, careful reconciliation process went out the window. In a sense, I panicked. Here I was, with a 6 yr old, 2 yr old, 9 month old and newly pregnant.. in a 2 bedroom apartment, with no husband, no car, no job.. I was a mess. 

I was still nursing, and in fact nursed through 6 months of pregnancy, and immediately began looking for another place to live. A 2 bedroom apartment was not going to fit 4 children, and 2 adults. And my lease was up in September, so waiting till then to move was also out of the question -- moving while due with a baby is not fun! I worked to break my lease, found replacement tenants, and a new house to move to, coincidentally? (absolutely not, God knew what He was doing!) in the same village that my inlaws lived in, just outside the city. My husband and I moved in together when we moved into that house, and that's where our baby was born, at home. 

With all the stress surrounding moving, baby, the issues of trust and abuse not addressed, in the rush, after my daughter was born, I slipped into a mild episode of postpartum depression. My husband stepped up into a role of taking care of home and children, and wife and baby, even taking extra time off to do so. It was, despite my fatigue and fog, probably the best time in our relationship ever (even since). We worked together, and we enjoyed each other. So much so..

One year to the day, after our reconciliation papers had been filed, ending our separation, we renewed our vows in front of our new home church. We hosted a party to burn the papers I had filled out to file for divorce. We symbolically recommitted ourselves to each other and to our family. And a month later, we found out we were expecting.. 

I was thrilled. Finally, a child I expect to have been both conceived and delivered while married and living together. It seemed fitting, to seal our new relationship with another baby. My husband seemed pleased as well, though unemployment and a new baby was definitely causing him stress. 

But.. subtly, things changed. Whether it was the stress of unemployment, or the feeling of having "won", my husband fell into old patterns. This time, it was a more subtle version. The criticism was hidden in compliments, or targeting my oldest daughter behind my back. The fights and yelling were provoked, rather than incited by him, and I found myself feeling like I was the one starting things unnecessarily. Things were twisted into making him seem innocent, that hurts were unintentional, or were ignored altogether. I was questioned constantly on my beliefs, my feelings, my needs, and I felt so off-balance that I wondered if I was going to lose my mind. 

I began to ask him to help, to change, to do something... to at least recognize the old patterns of abuse. I began searching for things to help. I prayed. 

Saturday, 31 August 2013

Finding contentment..

Nine years ago I became a mother. And, while it has been a roller coaster ride, with more life-changing moments in a decade than most people experience in a lifetime, when that child was placed in my arms, and I stared into her beautiful blue eyes, I felt a soul-satisfying, awe-struck wondering, bone-deep sense of completion. This, I thought, was what I was made for.

Four more pregnancies, deliveries and bouncing babies later.. I still look around at my children, in their various sizes, activities, development stages, and personalities, and I still get that soul-satisfying, awe-struck wondering, bone-deep sense of completion. This is what I was made for. 

I think it was my third child's birth, after my doctor missed the delivery, and the hospital doctor nearly missed it, and the nurses were caught unprepared.. that someone made the comment that my body was perfect for childbirth. My pregnancies are relatively easy (as easy as any pregnancy is), and my deliveries are quick and natural. And when I got pregnant again for the 5th time, and the 4th time in as many years, my midwife commented that I was built to have children. And again, I thought, yes, this is what I am made for. 

But I'm not speaking just physically. As a child, I was considered gifted -- I guess because I started kindergarten, reading to the first graders. Through my growing-up years, I was told over and over again, that I should be a lawyer, or some high-end businessperson.  I thrived in university, with the busy atmosphere of classes, due dates, and social activities. I've always needed a challenge to be my best.  And no where am I more challenged than as a mother of 5 busy little girls. 

I multitask as a matter of habit, keeping track of 5 pairs of little hands, I prioritize in heartbeat - changing diapers, ringing phones, boiling-over pots, and squabbling sisters.. oh and don't forget the baby's crying! I love the daily routines that are familiar, and yet the endless variety of my days, as each child is learning and growing and changing. It's not that difficult --- and yet its the hardest thing I've ever done. I am learning constantly, problem-solving on the go, adapting and changing to meet the needs of the people dependent on me every single day. 

And of course, that apparently wasn't enough to challenge me, according to God, because He also called me to homeschool these wonderful albeit exasperating children. So I add in the preparation and planning required, the self-discipline (let alone the training and teaching!) and the responsibility of their education, to the daily tasks of keeping them clean, fed and safe. 

But I wouldn't have it any other way. I love being home with my children. I love being a homeschool mother. I love being a mother, period. No where else would I find this joy, this contentment. 

This is what I was made for! 

Friday, 30 August 2013

Changes... and hope? Part 5


Friends who saw him away from me and then with me were telling me they were concerned for me. They told me that he was drinking more, that he was out a lot. His family expressed their concern for my safety. One friend came to me telling me my husband and tried flirting with her, and when she confronted him on it, said, “What she doesn’t know won’t hurt her.”

I asked him for a separation agreement, and an allowance/support payment weekly. He didn’t want to at first, but I pushed and he reluctantly agreed. We had some small savings in a joint account, and he said he would use that account, and put money into our joint checking account for my use. About a month after that, my world was rocked again with another betrayal. He used all our savings, about $1200 worth, on dinners out (involving alcohol) and about $600 of that on his cell phone, in the space of three weeks. I confronted him on it, and he confessed to using a phone sex line, and to meeting at least one woman off that line, though he claimed nothing happened.

I was devestated, and immediately cut off all contact. I told him I was done, and that I would be seeing a lawyer to file for divorce as soon as I could. I also told him I was moving as quickly as I could, back to the city where we had met.

I saw him a few times between that and moving, on his visits with the kids. I did my best to avoid him during those times, though I couldn’t remove myself completely, with a nursing baby. I made sure I was never alone with him, if I could help it.

I moved away, with the kids, and we set up regular visitations, about once a month. For the first month, I didn’t talk to him at all, unless it was about our children. I reveled in the security I felt, and felt confident in my decision. I began rebuilding my self-esteem, and exploring some of my talents I hadn’t used yet. I set goals for myself, and began talking to a counsellor about my future. I started a home business, to gain some self-sufficiency.

The second month, I began talking with my husband a bit more. With the distance, I felt more confident in my interactions with him. Knowing that it was over, I had some curiosity about why some things happened, and we spent a couple of nights, rehashing our relationship. It was enlightening, and freeing.

I found out that while I had been rediscovering myself, my move had been like a wake-up call to him. He began seeing his church pastor weekly for counselling, and confessed to his church what had happened between us. He asked friends to make him accountable. He stopped drinking entirely. He attended every church service he could get to.

It was a bill that came up that showed me the first signs of true change. Before we separated, if we had a bill or needed a few hundred dollars, he would borrow from friends or family. Before we met, he was several thousand dollars in debt to friends and family, and during our time together, he had borrowed more. But this time it was different. He went without. He saved. And he paid cash. I was impressed.

We continued talking, about our past, and about what he was doing. He stopped pushing me to reconcile quickly, though he never stopped asking. He stopped with the “buts” whenever we talked about the assault. He stopped asking me about “my issues”, and if I was doing anything to “fix” myself. He became very open with me, and he respected my boundaries. It was as though God had done a spiritual heart transplant.

The next push came from a conversation I had with an aunt, about the nature of forgiveness. I claimed to have forgiven my husband. And I truly thought I had. I had given up my right of revenge, remembering God’s Word, “Vengeance is mine, saith the Lord, I will repay.” I asked Jesus to take the debt my husband owed me for pain and suffering. I prayed for my husband, asking God to bless him, like Jesus commanded, praying for my enemies, and blessing those who persecuted me. But I had closed off from my husband, and refused to even be willing to try to trust him. And God pointed out to me that He didn’t do that. He didn’t hold my past against me. He said, Come let us reason together, and promised that He would make me white as snow. He promised that I was a new creature in him, that He would transform my mind, if I would renew with him daily.

I realized that I needed to be willing. Be soft. Forgiveness, true forgiveness, was about being soft, not hard. Not that one doesn’t set boundaries, protecting from future hurt, but that I had set my boundary too far. I wasn’t willing to even let my husband in, instead of simply setting boundaries of courtesy and respect. I refused to recognize his willingness to change, to let him change. I was reminded of the unmerciful servant, who having had his debt erased by the king, turned around and jailed the one that owed him.

I confessed my sin to God, asking him to give me a heart of flesh, not stone, like he promised. I committed to trusting God with my future, and to being willing to try, regardless of the outcome. I asked for guidance in making sure we were protected, and that we could have a healthy relationship. I asked for a spiritual heart transplant. 

But was it enough?  

Monday, 26 August 2013

Going downhill... (Part 4)


My oldest daughter had regular visitations with her father, and I began encouraging those to be longer than they were before. About two months before I was due with our third child, she went for a week-long visit. We picked her up, and the night just seemed to go wrong. He was harsh with her, critical of me, and complaining of everything. We had done some shopping, and when we got home, I hurried through the kids’ bedtime routine, to try to keep them out of the way. I knew he was spoiling for another fight, and I was dreading it.

It started as soon as I sat down. We argued about my oldest daughter, about disciplining the kids. He claimed he was going to take over the discipline, as I was too soft, and told me some of what he was going to do, scaring me. I objected, and as soon as I did, he started yelling, saying I didn’t respect him, I didn’t care for him, I was always criticising him, and he could never please me. I was 9 months pregnant, and all of a sudden, I really felt like I couldn’t handle this. I got up, and walked away, in the middle of his ranting. I locked myself in my children’s room.

I heard him in the house, and I thought he was putting on shoes to go out. He wasn’t. He was looking for me. He found the locked door, and it seemed to enrage him. He roared, and the door burst open, hitting me in the thigh. My toddler daughter started screaming, and my older daughter started crying. He grabbed me by the wrists and pushed me down the hallway, yelling the whole time. I could see my older daughter behind him screaming for me, trying to catch up. I could see my toddler screaming in her crib, reaching for me. He pushed me against the wall, and yelled in my face, holding my wrists, pushing them against me with every new rant. I begged him to let me go. I begged him not to hurt me. I thought he was going to kill me.

He finally let me go, and turned to the girls’ room. He yelled at my daughter to get back into bed, and was going to get our toddler. I ran for the phone and called 911. I told the operator what had happened, and that he was getting our kids, and I was scared. He came holding our toddler, and pushing my oldest in front of him, and demanded to know who I was talking to. Then he told me to hang up the phone. He asked if I had called the police. I ignored him, and just kept talking to the operator, who could hear him. I then asked him to give me our kids, and he refused. The operator offered to talk to him, if he would give me our children, and he agreed. I took our kids, and ran with them into their bedroom, crawling on their bed, holding them, crying and shaking.

The police came, and one officer came in to the room with me, and one stayed with him. The officer helped me to calm down, and took me into the other bedroom, so they could look at the door he had broken open. I was able to calm myself and calm the children, and tell the officer a bit of what had happened. He left the room, and told me I could put my children to bed again. I did, and as I left their room, I saw my husband, in hand cuffs, being escorted out by police officers. He looked at me, in shock, and there was a look in his eyes of horror. I looked at him, my heart hurting, both because of what he had done to me, and because he was being taken from me.

I called a friend to come stay with me while I waited for the police officers to return for my statement. They informed me that he would be charged, and I had no say in that. I was also told that everything I said in my statement may be used against him in court.

Many victims won’t press charges, out of fear, out of love. Where I live, domestic assault is an automatic charge.

The court process was surreal. I didn’t have to testify, and he pled guilty to his charge, was convicted of domestic assault, and was given a suspended sentence, with time served (about 7 days), and probation of 12 months, with court ordered counselling. He was released, and part of his probation was a no-contact order with me, except by his written consent.

I had packed a suitcase for him, and some personal items, and I had written him a letter every night while he was jailed. Friends picked them up, and dropped off 2 dozen red roses, with a note, telling me he was very very sorry for what he had done.

Very quickly, contact began, against the advice of the agencies around me. He was there when our third daughter was born, and visited the whole time she was in hospital. Child protection services was the only thing that stood between him and his moving home. Most victims go back to their abusers very quickly. It was like the fear and shock and outrage was a dream, and I just missed him. It was as if I wore rose-colored glasses when I looked back at our history. I didn’t think I was abused, I excused him. I claimed this was an out-of-character moment for him, that he just “snapped” and he would never hurt me on purpose.

I began counselling myself with a local women’s shelter outreach worker. She showed me the cycle of abuse I lived with was typical – the continually escalating controlling behaviour and disrespect, the outburst of violence (yelling, physical assault, continually escalating with each outburst), the remorse and promises, usually with a gift of some kind, and then the honeymoon, of feeling like it will finally be better, until he starts criticising and demanding again. It shocked me to read that, and recognize the behaviours described there as my life. To see the phrases I had heard over and over again as being classified as verbal abuse was like a slap in the face.

I acknowledged that I was an abused wife. I was humiliated, ashamed, and so very very angry that I let this happen. I felt guilty that I had exposed my children to this, that I had lived with this for so long, and that I had submitted to this, thinking this was “normal”.

Over the four months that I began to recognize my situation for what it really was, I began seeing red flags in my continuing relationship with him. He was pushing to reconcile as quickly as possible, using my faith to justify it. “God hates divorce,” he would say, “and He doesn’t want us separate. ‘What God has put together, let no man tear asunder.’” He kept asking if I knew “what you did wrong that contributed to this”, or if I acknowledged “your part in all this”. He would say things like, “I was wrong, and I take full responsibility for my actions, but you kept pushing me, and I felt rejected by you, and that’s why I lost control.” There was always a “but” involved.

Friday, 23 August 2013

Moving and more... (Part 3)


Over the month of January, we had some heart-to-heart talks. We realized that we were very isolated, and we needed more support around us, and that he needed a better job, so we decided to move about 8 hours north, to where I had grown up. We stayed with my parents for two months, while he found a job, and we found an apartment. 6 weeks after moving into our new apartment, I discovered I was pregnant again.

He was ecstatic again, but almost immediately withdrew from me. About a month after, he lost his job, and while he found one quickly, he was very moody. This time, it was worse. We began fighting over everything from what we did on the weekends, to the money I spent on groceries, to disciplining the kids. He also became very critical of our oldest, his stepdaughter, my daughter, and we fought over that too.
We met with the pastor of the church he had decided we would attend. (Yes, he decided, even though he had said we would talk about it, and visit several, it was the only one we went to, before he said that was “home”). I shared some of my concerns, and he gave his “reasons” for his actions. The pastor told us to talk more, and that he was praying for us.

Most Christian pastors have no training to deal with domestic abuse. A lot of abused women leave the church because pastors make the mistake of encouraging those women to stay in the marriage, out of fear of them leaving, not wanting to encourage divorce. They also fail to recognize that no amount of “submission” will ever be enough for an abuser, and that abusers deceive very very well.

The verbal abuse escalated as my pregnancy continued. I found myself in tears more often than not after one of our fights. My nightmares returned, and I found myself longing for the days when I was a single parent. I began dreading his return after his work day was done. I would meet him at the door, and gauge his mood. If he seemed in a good mood, happy to see me, I dawdled finishing supper, and encouraged the kids to interact with him. If he came home venting about his boss and his coworkers, I hurried, and put the kids to bed early. I watched, and managed around his moods, like I did around my toddler daughter. I offered snacks, and encouraged naps, taking the children out of the home on the weekends if needed. I didn’t dare complain about the kids’ behaviour, as I didn’t want him having anything to do with disciplining them, fearing he would cross the line with them too.  

Monday, 19 August 2013

For better or for worse.. (Part 2)

Continue on for part two of my story:

I wondered many times if I should leave. I thought about where I would go, what I would take if I did leave, and how I would get there, without a vehicle, without money. We had no money, and everytime we did, I couldn’t use it. He drove me to get groceries, and if I spent so much as 5 dollars at the corner store, I had to explain why.

I was tormented at night with nightmares that he would leave, and just not come back. Or that I would have a police officer at my door telling me he’d been killed in an accident on the road. I felt guilty, because in my dreams, I felt relieved that he was gone.

We went to his church every Sunday. (I had attended a different one while we were dating.) We smiled and shook hands. No one knew what went on behind closed doors. I would stand and make sure the kids wouldn’t run off, while he chatted with his friends, about people I didn’t know, places I had never gone to, and experiences I wasn’t a part of. I knew no one, I had no friends, though I tried to make some, and I felt very alone.

Abusers like to isolate their victims, to make their victim dependent on themselves for social interaction, and for financial support.

Christmas was hard for me that year. I had had a tradition with my daughter of getting a new dated Christmas ornament for her every year, and when I asked my husband for the money for it that year, he refused. He said it was silly, and that we couldn’t “waste” our money that way. Yet, a friend could call him, and he would drive an hour to meet him, and go out for drinks, defending himself with the excuse of “needing a break” or “guys’ night out”.

I remember sharing with my sister-in-law over Christmas dinner, that I would be surprised if we made it past Christmas. I thought that he would leave me by then, scared of the idea, and almost hoping for it at the same time.

On December 27, we were on our way to a family Christmas event, and we were hit by a truck. It wasn’t a very serious accident and no one was hurt, but serious enough that our van was wrecked. After we were all done with the police and sorting out getting home, my husband and I talked clearly that night. He confessed that he was just about ready to leave, but that the accident we’d had scared him, and he realized what he could have lost. He said he was committed to trying harder, to yelling less, to being more considerate of my needs too.

On December 31, he was on his way home from work in the rental car we had gotten, and he was T-boned by a driver who ran the stop sign. I got a very confused phone call from him, and then heard nothing. I had a 6 month old at home, and no way to get to the hospital, where he was being taken, and no way of finding out if he was alive or dead. I called my brother-in-law, who drove the hour to the hospital, and updated me every 2 hours or so. I hung on to the phone like a drowning victim to a rope that day. I realized I still loved him, and I was committed myself to making this work.

He was released from hospital with a concussion and some very bad bruises and seatbelt rash. We felt as though our marriage had been given a second chance.  

Friday, 16 August 2013

Back to the beginning: Part 1

I thought in exploring my needs and wants in a relationship, I should go back and revisit what started this all:

As a teenager, I went to the classes, heard the lectures – abusive boyfriends, unhealthy relationships, etc. My friends and I swore we’d never be one of *those* women, who let themselves get beat up physically and emotionally by some stupid guy. I was too strong, too confident to ever let myself be abused.

I met him in September, in church. He was the first guy I dated, who claimed to be a Christian. He shared my background of Biblical values, with at least a nodding acquaintance with the name of Jesus. He was charming and very considerate. I fell hard, and we saw each other nearly every evening for three months.

Of course, we each had our baggage. I had a daughter from a previous (failed) relationship. He was on probation, with a criminal conviction for assault. I was cautious, I thought, but I was satisfied with the steps he had taken to “fix” his issues: counselling and anger management. It seemed like he had learned to control himself.

There were a few issues during our dating. A scary incident with my daughter almost ended everything 6 months into our relationship. He patiently waited and pursued, though. Another incident in a parking lot ended a date, and again almost derailed it, but he was extremely apologetic.

40 % of offenders assault their victims again within 30 months of the first conviction. (American Bar Association, http://new.abanet.org/domesticviolence/Pages/default.aspx). If violence has happened in a relationship, it’s more likely to happen again.

He proposed within a year of dating, and I joyfully accepted. We set the date 4 months away. Shortly after we were engaged, I discovered I was pregnant. He was ecstatic. I wanted to tell our parents right away, and change our date until after our child was born, but he wanted to wait until after the wedding to tell them. We compromised, and we told them about 2 months before the wedding, but we didn’t change the date.
Abusers generally want to impregnate their victims, as it’s a sign of their power and control, but abuse generally escalates during and immediately after pregnancy.

We were married.. and things started with a bang.  On our way to our honeymoon, a 5 hour drive, and he started fighting with ne. I pretended to sleep just to avoid the discomfort, but it did create a tone that was to mark our marriage.

Within 4 months we moved into a new apartment and welcomed our daughter to our family. He was working a split shift warehouse job, that made ends meet (barely) and we had a tiny 2 bedroom apartment, and we were happy, I thought.

We were happy, for about 2 weeks. Then, something changed. It was gradual, just little things. Because his job started so early, he would come home and sleep, and he told me to keep our kids quiet. Since we had an infant, that was easier said than done. He would yell at me, telling me I wasn’t a good mother, I wasn’t a fit parent since I let our baby cry, and I was selfish and wasn’t thinking of him, letting the kids disturb him. He would storm out after an argument, slamming the door, sometimes hard enough to knock the pictures off the wall. He’d zoom out of the parking lot, tires squealing, leaving me with two children, no where to go and no way to get there.

He’d come home a few hours later, apologetic and remorseful, usually with some treat for me – a flower, my favorite kind of chocolate bar, a hot chocolate. He’d blame it on being so tired, stressed at work, or some other excuse. I accepted his apology and of course he was forgiven, and I promised to try harder.

And the cycle would repeat. Sometimes it was because supper wasn’t ready when he got home, or his laundry wasn’t dry, or the kids’ toys were all over the floor. Sometimes it was because I was too demanding (I asked him to talk to me or play with the kids) or because I wasn’t paying enough attention to him (he wanted me to watch movies with him instead of doing dishes or folding laundry). Each time was the same. He would yell and blame me as the reason he wasn’t happy. I wasn’t good enough, I wasn’t doing enough, I wasn’t trying enough.

As the fall turned into winter, our fights got worse. Once, he told me to go into our bedroom and shut the door, so we could “talk”. He grabbed my wrists and held them down while he yelled at me. I stood up for myself and told him that if he ever touched me like that again, I would call the police. He stormed out, and didn’t return for several hours.  

Wednesday, 14 August 2013

My marriage manual...

I was asked what I wanted in marriage, or how I saw marriage as it's supposed to be. This has been difficult for me to figure out, as I never really wanted marriage to begin with. Add to that my marriage being not good from the start, and well.. what do I know about marriage??

Now, like everyone else, I'm sure, I've seen happy marriages. I've seen married couples who've grown old together, and still seem in love. They're cute. And I know it's work -- just living with someone else is aggravating at times. But I've never seen a couple who made me want what they had.

To me, the cons of marriage have always outweighed the pros. So why did I get married in the first place? I wanted security, a family.. and to please my parents. I was already a single parent when I got married.. and I was pregnant on my wedding day. There was a lot of unspoken pressure to marry, and marry quickly, I think. I thought marriage would give me security - financially, emotionally.. that here was someone who I could talk to, could count on because we were going through things together.

I think if I were to do it again -- and that is a big if! -- marriage would have to be more than just security. I'm not afraid of being a single parent now, and if being an unwed mother was bad in my parents' eyes, being a divorcee is worse, so I no longer feel pressure to be or stay married. I have children now, and while I'd like more (I always did want a large family .. weird I know.. ) I'm ok if I don't.

So what would a marriage need to be like for me to want to be married?

I think it comes down to one thing: I want to feel special. I want to feel like I'm worth something to someone, that I'm important -- important enough that they would give up something just to be with me, to spend time with me. I want to feel as though I'm worth sacrifice.

Obviously, I want to be treated with respect. I want to be heard, and for my opinion to be valued. I want someone to think that my wants are important, and that they remember them, because they like me.

I want to be pursued.

I don't think I'll be able to settle again for less. If someone wants to be with me, they will have to prove it.. and the thing is -- I've learned I'm worth the effort.

Now I know this all seems very me-focused, but I do want to give to someone else too. I want to be someone's best friend, to share their dreams as they share mine. I want to be able to cuddle and just be together, without needing to do something or even talk together, but just enjoy the company while doing our own things. I want to be able to talk for hours, about everything, and anything, and nothing at all. I want to be able to point out my/our kids' funny or adorable sayings and actions and have inside jokes and shared memories. I want to work together on projects that benefit the family, and trade ideas and build off one another. I want to look forward to waking up next to them.

I want us as a couple to be better together than we would be apart.

I do miss being held. Not that I was held often. I miss looking up and sharing the delight over a child. Not that he paid attention that often. I miss feeling excited about seeing him -- the last time I felt excited over seeing him was while we dated.. knowing he was coming home during our marriage brought fear, not excitement.

I think I miss what I thought marriage was going to be, not what it was. And I think I've been missing that for a very long time..

Tuesday, 13 August 2013

What does it mean to be beautiful?

What does it mean to be beautiful, both in the eyes of others and in the eyes of God? Through some study and meditation, I believe there are three ingredients to true beauty: Holiness, Righteousness and Humility, otherwise known as purity, integrity and modesty.
True beauty is discovered when one realizes their identity and value in Jesus Christ. When one is sure of their identity, and builds their life on that unshakable foundation, one has a confidence that shines. When you know who you are, and when you see yourself as God sees you, you are truly beautiful!
Every human being has value — value as a human being, a creation of God. This intrinsic value is not based on what we’ve done or said, or what others think of us or assign to us. It’s just there. Just because God made you, you are valuable! Every believer has value — value as a child of God. He chose you, He saved you — obviously there is value in you, or else why would He have sacrificed so much for you? We were created for a specific purpose and a specific function. We are valuable and beautiful, because God made us that way. He declared us “good”!
The first ingredient of beauty is purity. True beauty shines pure. Emotional, verbal, physical, sexual and spiritual purity are required to have true, God-given beauty. Purity is an ingredient of beauty as it reflects God’s holiness. We are called to be holy as God is holy. Our body and mind is a temple of the Holy Spirit,  and as such should be treated with respect. We can’t sully our bodies with abuse of drugs, laziness or  over-indulgence. We can’t poison our minds with negativity and bitterness, pornography and violence, or humanistic philosophies. And we can’t defile our spirits with chasing after things of this world rather than “living in the light of eternity,” as the song says.
Holiness is the ultimate purity. It is more than just cleanliness, it is sanctification. We are cleansed of “all unrighteousness” and therefore blameless before God. We are to present ourselves as living sacrifices in worship to God. How can we do that without being holy? And this is a very doable thing: If it were not, God would not require it of us. He is incapable of leading into temptation, but instead He “delivers us from evil.” He promised that there would be no temptation too strong for us to bear,  and that there would always be a way out. We are called to be pure. As purity flows through our lives, we shine with God’s beauty, and become truly beautiful.
The second ingredient of beauty is integrity. True beauty shines real. Our actions must match our beliefs and attitudes. Integrity is an ingredient of beauty as it reflects God’s righteousness. We are called to live rightly as God is righteous. Do we say we believe one thing, and then act differently? Do our mouths spout off platitudes of discipline and devotion to our friends or on our blogs, but if people were to observe our days, the majority of them is spent in front of a computer screen, ignoring the things (or people!) screaming for our attention.  Our appearances must match our heart, and we need to be real!
Honesty is a major part here. We need to be honest with ourselves and with others. God looks at the heart and He knows what we really believe, no matter how much we try to deny or fake it. And no matter how much you try to fake it, it will show. People can sense when someone is being fake. You can come across as fake, even if you don’t mean to, because we can be really good at lying to ourselves. If we will be honest, God can lead us to be righteous. It is a commandment not to lie, and to live a lie is a sin against God’s righteousness.
Integrity and righteousness go hand in hand. The Bride of Christ will be clothed in “linen of righteousness”. Righteousness is not merely “good deeds” but the willingness to live rightly with God, the genuine desire to obey. Integrity is a part of someone’s character, not just their behaviour. In being righteous, and godly, we are genuine in seeking His kingdom, not our own whims and wants.
The third ingredient of beauty is modesty. This may seem strange, that true beauty is modest. But its true. Modesty shines as Jesus shone. God is a gentleman, and true beauty requires this gentle Spirit. We are called to live humbly, meekly, with modesty. “Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.” (Matthew 5:5) Gentle spirits and modesty do not mean weak. Humility is not weakness. It takes more strength to stand firm, unresisting, fighting the urge of fight or flight, than to react to provocation. Jesus was a meek man, but no one would have called him a weak man. His anger cleared the temple. His strength so impressed the captain of the Roman guard, that upon Jesus’ death, the captain declared that he must have been the son of God. Modesty is a strength that comes from our confidence in God. Modesty is uncomplaining, gives rather than demands, serves rather than commands, and gives up the need to control others. It is self-control, not arrogance.  Modesty comes from a confidence in who we are and how much we’re worth, so that we don’t need to flaunt our assets or prove our attractions.
When one thinks of modesty, one thinks of modest dress. Modesty has more to do with attitude than appearance. Women can be covered from neck to toe, and be more provocatively dressed than a woman dressed in more skin-revealing clothes with an attitude of modesty. Modesty has a confidence that has no need to flaunt or embellish. We are called to be modest as it reflects God’s love. Love has no need of boasting in itself. Love is genuine, aware of others’ opinions, but not willing to bend to peer pressure. Modesty in love leads rather than follows.
Modesty is a form of humility. Modest beauty knows who really is deserving of all the credit — God! Modesty gives all glory to God. After all, we did nothing to create the face, body, talents or skills we may be gifted with.  True beauty is modest, and a reflection of God’s glory. Modesty is an attitude of service, service for the sake of serving God and others, and not for any reward. It is service done in secret, and letting God reward them. Modesty shares, and is generous, not self-serving.  It is a respect for others, and a respect for oneself.
Beauty is found in confidence in God. When we know the value God placed on us, how can we devalue ourselves? How can we declare “ugly” and “worthless” what God declared “good” and “very good”, and worth the biggest price: the sacrifice of His Own Son?  To do that, calls God a liar. We can be secure in His love. Believe it, young lady. Rely on it, young man. God loves YOU! He loves you more than you can ever imagine. And because He loves you, you can be confident that there is nothing you need to enhance, to dress up, to prove, to give away, or to flaunt in order to demonstrate that you are beautiful, to get the attention every human being craves. God loves you because He made you. And that’s all you need to know. True beauty shines out of this confidence, reflected through purity, modest and integrity. May we all be beautiful in the sight of God.

Monday, 12 August 2013

Marriage and mayhem...

Yeah, two things that don't normally go together, right? But they have in my home.

I may have mentioned before that my marriage has been abusive. It has been, and with the coming of my last child, turned that way again. It was a slow, gradual change, that started right about the same time that we conceived her.  At first, it was subtle -- silent moments, ignoring me, fits of anger, overly harsh criticism - of both me and my daughter - and while I wasn't happy, I didn't name it abusive. I did start trying to correct it though. I asked for conversations, I offered books to read aloud, and I asked for what I needed... and didn't get it.

As time went on, things grew worse, and more than just verbal and emotional. The first major incident of physical abuse (this time around) was about 4 months into my pregnancy, and scared me witless. I packed up my kids, and took them and my pregnant self to my brother-in-law's place. They calmed me down, and both my husband and they convinced me to go back.. but things were never the same.

Come 6 months into my pregnancy, I started back with the counselling program we had used the first time. I asked him to join with me, and he did.. sporadically. There was no consistency, and by my 7th month, my counsellor was advising me to ask for a separation then.

I waited until after our baby was born, and when she was a couple weeks old, I sat my husband down and asked him to either get very serious about this counselling program... or get out. He said he would get serious.

He didn't. He dabbled. He did a bare minimum, and not much changed. I waited 1 month, then 2.. then 3.. and finally I couldn't take it anymore. I asked him to leave, and 2 weeks ago, he did.

So my marriage is in limbo. Physically, emotionally, even financially, I'm in a better place. I feel safer, I feel more on balance, I feel more positive since he's been gone. He has been attempting to work harder with the counselling program, so time will tell.

I am slowly recovering my emotional health, and I am planning for my future. I'm also, oddly enough, discovering what I need and want in a marriage, should I ever have one again -- with my estranged husband or with someone else. Divorce isn't what I needed or wanted, but I'm now at a place where I would rather be single than have what legally was a marriage but in reality never was.

I'm in a unique place. As a parent I'm dealing with training pants.. and training bras. As a homeschooler, I have spent time and money on materials to help teach a Christian worldview about relationships and marriage, about love and courtship, about purity and choosing a partner to my daughters, and I find a lot of that coming back to me, in my considerations about my own future. I will be sharing some of those thoughts in the coming days...

Sunday, 11 August 2013

Even Though

Even though my world is crashing
Even though it’s all undone
Even though my heart is smashing
Even though my dreams are gone
Even though it hurts so much
Even though there’s so much pain
Even though I don’t feel your touch
I know you remain
Yet will I hope
Yet will I receive
My God is here and He will help me
This truth I will believe
I can’t see you through the darkness
I can’t feel you in the fog
I can’t hear you in the silence
I can’t stop here in the bog
I can’t go one more day
I can’t do this yet again
I can’t figure out the way
I know you remain