To anyone who has moved….my sympathy. I am still living out of boxes, but I did just move Thursday so…I have a few days grace right? Know what part I love the most about moving? Cleaning out & throwing away the JUNK! It just thrills me to see trash bags of my past sitting on the curb! As I mentioned before, I despise clutter so….moving provides me the opportunity to hone in even more on that quality.
The other thing I love is of course strolling down memory lane. Bryce was getting married the weekend before my move so I was going through some photographs for wedding table decorations. I sat in the closet of the spare bedroom weeding through what seemed like thousands of photos. I could hear laughter, reminisce of conversations around such events the pics captured, & remember what season of life I was in. Of course there is always the, “I was so skinny then” convo in my mind, or “Look at that big hair!” Some pics caused emotions such as pain to surface as well. Pain of losing parents, pain of divorce, pain of knowing the struggles I experienced at that particular moment in time, pain of losing friends to far away places like Texas, Montana or Minnesota! Through the pain, I can’t help but realize just how far I have come since then & it was actually because of the pain I survived.
The day of having the make ready crew come in to clean for me came. This is my least favorite part of the move & I hired it out! I found myself sitting in front of a wooden 2 drawer file cabinet cleaning out personal info. I was not bringing the cabinet so…. This was the second hit of reality for me. I just thought the pics were it! This is the second of three!
While scanning over files, I noticed the divorce papers. Those brought me joy! Then I found an envelope of personal testimonials concerning Bryce. When he was in 3-4th. grade his dad went an entire year without seeing him. I will spare details. At that time Bryce made up stories to tell various nannies. They would come to me heartbroken sharing them. They included his dad getting killed in the war, being shot while hunting, etc. Each time I secretly hoped they were true, but had to confess to the nanny they were fabricated. I couldn’t understand as this was unusual for Bryce. The Holy Spirit is so amazing in revealing the unknown. He allowed me to see that during this time, Bryce fabricated stories as closure. It was easier to believe your dad is dead rather than wonder why he doesn’t love you enough to see you. Fabrication was better than feeling the pain of rejection. This made sense, yet grieved me to know a child, my child, had to do this to cope with an absentee father.
The year passed, I accepted a travel nursing assignment both in New Hampshire & then onto Florida. I had contacted school principals in both states, apartment managers, etc. & was ready to depart on a journey finally leaving the state of Louisiana. Then…one evening…the Forest Hill Police department appeared on my doorstep to serve me papers restraining me from leaving the state of La. What? How could this be? Apparently absentee father was now filing for complete custody of a child he had neglected to see for a year. Long story short….I didn’t get to do the travel assignments, but the most wise, Alexandria judge gave me permission in front of all my enemies that at the end of the school year, I could travel anywhere I wanted with my son by my side. Grace!
In the bundle of testimonials was the most painful folder of all. My daughter was eight when I married Bryce’s dad. For 10 yrs. her life was difficult to describe. She excelled in school, church, was the most incredible daughter anyone could ever imagine. Her teachers loved her, she was surrounded by the best of friends. I actually didn’t work for most of those years so she was definitely allowed to participate in almost everything she wanted. Why difficult? She was an avid reader & writer of poetry. She kept a diary through most of her life. In the folder she attached some of the pages of her diary. A mother can only imagine what it felt like reading what your daughter truly felt living in the house with a man who only spoke to you when he wanted to reprimand you. For years I felt like the liaison of my blended family. The thermostat in my home was set according to my husband’s moods. Needless to say…this ended. As I read those pages of Summer describing what a phenomenal mom I was, how Bryce was very well taken care of, what a horrible relationship & influence his dad was, her subjection to his anger, hatred, & outbursts were hard to bear. Yes, I had read these pages years before, but…it never gets easier. She mentioned a very poignant moment of watching her little brother cry in the car one day wondering why his dad didn’t love him. I couldn’t help but just want to look my kids now 22 & 33 in the eyes & tell them how sorry I was for ever subjecting them to this.
The third hit came when I was unpacking my new loft. No, they don’t come pre-packaged….you know what I mean! I found a school folder from when Bryce was in around the 5th. or 6th. grade. His class assignment was to write an essay to describe his best & worse days. His best was a trip to Universal Studios with his dad & step-mom. He never mentioned them, only the rides. The worst day was when he thought he failed 4th. grade, went to summer school, aced it, & realized the school district had mis-graded the LEAP tests, proving he passed to 5th. grade. I remember how horrible 4th. grade was, how many trips I made to the school, how many sessions I had with the principal, etc. I also remember how the summer school teacher brought hope & belief back into the life of a child. That wasn’t really painful at all. The painful part of this was somehow a report from another child in Bryce’s class was attached to his. The writing was so tiny, I almost needed a magnifying glass. Child psychologists could diagnose this, but I just wanted to read the essay. The child described the worse day of his life was when the CPS workers came into their home and took him & his siblings away from his mom. They were placed in foster care. Later he described how his mom got heavily involved in drugs preventing the reunion of their family. As I read this, tears rolled down my face realizing the difference in the contrast of the best & worst days between these two boys. The precious note from the teacher written in red ink will forever be etched on my heart. It was as if I was reading an excerpt from the movie, Blindside or Precious. You see….things really do happen in real life.
In our lives we will all experience the best & worst days. The pain endured in a horrible marriage, subjecting my kids to abusive behavior blinded by love, led me to divorce. Through the pain of divorce, raising kids alone, I realize I am the woman I am today because of it. My kids are rooted & grounded in Christ, whole, drug free & without any apparent scars. Pain, when allowed, will strengthen the weakest area of your lives. I love the saying, “Pain is weakness leaving the body.” The three of us learned to minister past the pain & are now well equipped to offer solace to those walking in the path we once walked.
The contrast between the boys reminds me of how utterly selfish we can be. While unpacking this past weekend, I was determined to store my precious Christmas decoration collection. I lifted heavy boxes & storage containers by myself while climbing my rickety ladder. Once arranged, I couldn’t help but think that same storage area would be the home of men / women in Hong Kong classified as cage dwellers. I felt very grateful for every square inch of my 832 sq. ft. loft. I complained the next day that my temporary flannel sheets made my bed too hot, then while scanning my beautiful daughter in laws mission trip to Kenya, seeing them sleeping on the floor & the next day I very gratefully made my bed.
We can allow the pain of the past to paralyze us or we can push past it knowing we will be better because of it on the other side. I have counseled with woman after woman & witnessed them as they stayed in situations as described in my life simply because they fear being alone. I have also seen the scars of their children. You see….your fear is not just your fear, but it resonates to generations just as courage does. While I felt sorry for subjecting my kids to that relationship, I realized I exercised courage & left it, knowing life would be difficult. There has never been a point when I followed God’s guidance in my valleys, that he didn’t bring me through the pass to the top of the mountain. I never said it was always pleasant, but I went through it!
I want to encourage you to look at yourself. While I was the Singles Director, I encouraged frequent self-evaluation. I can honestly say this season of my life is filled with joy, love, hope, belief, expectancy & yes, even challenges. I will embrace the good, the bad, & joyfully expect miracles. I will also determine to reach out to others because I can discern the pain in the eyes of another. Remember….I saw it for years in the mirror. Please don’t misinterpret this blog post as a green light for divorce. Not to confuse you, but I do believe there are times when you need to leave a marital relationship. God describes the bonds of marriage & when those bonds are defiled, the conscious becomes seared, & lives are in the balance…I believe there is release.
God is faithful, but he does expect us to step out in faith during the times we feel we will utterly faint. He gives us strength, but we have to know when to exercise it. It’s like the exercise equipment in my loft complex. It won’t cause me to get in shape until I use it! I believe we frustrate the grace of God when we refuse his help by staying in situations because of fear. I also believe it grieves him when he sees his children experience abuse, pain, disappointment, grief & hopelessness unnecessarily.
Pass then envelope of whatever causes pain in your life. Read it & search for the answer. I only pray you have courage to face the fear & embrace what life you could truly lead. Most of all….be grateful.
Jeremiah 49:11–Leave thy fatherless children, I will preserve them alive; and let thy widows trust in me.
He is truly the Father to the fatherless and a defender of the widow!