Tuesday, January 14, 2014

The Curse of Generational Disrespect and Miscommunication... But, Mostly Just Hurt Feelings and Misunderstandings

***I WOULD LIKE TO PREFACE THIS POST BY SAYING THAT THIS IS IN NO WAY ABOUT ANY ONE PERSON, NOR IS IT AN ATTEMPT AT TRYING TO TELL SOMEONE SOMETHING BY WAY OF SUGGESTING IT THROUGH A GENERALIZED BLOG POST. THESE ARE SIMPLY THINGS THAT I THINK AND FEEL, AND, BY GOD'S GRACE, MUSTER UP THE COURAGE TO SHARE.***

I think that it would be safe to say that most people I know have been lumped in, at one point or another, with the rest of their peers and deemed to be "The Worst Generation To Have Ever Walked the Earth". They say that we're the rudest, loudest, meanest, most selfish, disrespectful, careless, sexualized, demon-possessed, God-hating, immoral... well, you get the picture... apparently, we're just awful.

The irony is, that as a mere 25 year old, I have lived long enough to see an even newer generation grow into adolescents who are also deemed as "the worst". But, wait a second... I thought that MY generation was about as low as they come. Oh, but wait... I can remember hearing about how my parents generation was also deemed the scum of the earth... bunch o' dope heads and hippies. And, if I'm not mistaken, my grandparents generation was responsible for producing feminism and Elvis, who was the King of Rock & Roll and ultimately the gateway to Hell, so surely THEY are responsible for society's failures. Oh... what's that you say? In the years leading up to and after 100 B.C., the Romans used to feed live people to live animals at The Colosseum as their most popular form of spectator sport entertainment? Hmm...

Never you mind those Romans. This new generation takes the cake. They don't say "sir" or "ma'am", they're all on welfare, chivalry is dead, and they just all around suck.

I could honestly sit here all day and think of reasons why the general public is suffering thanks to today's generation, or yesterday's generation, or really, just whomever I cared to cast the bulk of the blame on, I'm sure I could muster up a big enough list to convince at least one or two like-minded people as to why we should be disgusted with them and why all of OUR problems are THEIR fault, and why I am completely justified by being offended by everything they do or say. But, I don't want to do that. I want to bring it down to scale. Let's forget about this and that generation, and let's just talk about the two factors in any social setting that we can do something about... those factors are YOU and ME.

As a child, my parents did share with me a general set of rules and expectations that were meant to be upheld in social settings and when amongst my elders, and in most cases, I did adhere to those general values because I knew to not do so would result in grim consequences. It was never my desire to feel the sting of those consequences, also called a belt, on my rear end. Did the fear of those consequences convince me that my elders actually deserved respect? Not at all. But, it did teach me that if a pony takes orders, all goes well, and if they disobey, here come's the whip. So, for the most part, as most children do, I ponied up and did my duty. My parents were generally satisfied with my manners, and my elders were generally impressed that I was outwardly respectful and compliant. All of those rules and consequences, however, did not change the fact that by nature, humans are "monkey-see, monkey-do", and I was raised by two very imperfect people, just as all of you were. The mantra "Do as I say, not as I do" is a hopeless saying that only works in theory, which ultimately means, it doesn't work. If a parent explains to their child the importance of showing respect for their elders, but that same parent only shows hostility and rebellion toward authority, then despite the fact that the child has been told the importance of respect, they have been taught something very different. That is where the confusion seems to occur, and the poop hits the fan. People assume that to tell someone something is to teach them. But, while a child may obey a parent's rules, there are many cases where they do so simply because "this is what children should do". That mindset is often the result of parents who don't practice what they preach. They say no cookies before dinner, but they are regularly caught snacking between meals, and then scolding a child for asking for a snack, saying, "Don't you know that will spoil your dinner?" Chomp. Chomp. Chomp. "Now, go play and stop whining about being hungry. I'll call you when dinner is ready." Chomp. Chomp. Chomp.

What, then, does a child truly grasp from such a confusing situation? They see the adult doing what they are telling the child not to do, and then naturally assume that these rules only apply to children. The child doesn't quite understand why, but they know that parents have many silly rules for them that they themselves don't abide by. The only conclusion for most children is that "I am a child, and I must follow the rules. I cannot wait to be a grown-up so that I don't have to follow the rules anymore."

Let me say that again.

"I am a child, and I must follow the rules. I cannot wait to be a grown-up so that I don't have to follow the rules anymore."

This leads to a very "good" child growing up to be a very less than satisfactory adult. Their parents and grandparents will shake their heads while saying, "I don't know what happened, she was always such a good child. I never would have imagined she would turn out like this. The world must have gotten to her, because we raised her better than that. Society has ruined our children."

The harsh reality? Your words gave them rules that children must obey, while your actions showed them the way that adults are allowed to behave. So, all of those rules, the endless punishments and groundings for breaking them, in your child's mind, all of that nonsense had an expiration date. They were simply arbitrary rules with no bearings that children must follow or else be punished. The moment that the child is grown and knows that they are no longer under your authority or in fear of punishment, they will be much more bold in being who they have always been now that they are out of the dog and pony show that was their childhood. If there is no longer anyone to whip them, why then, should they still perform? We are all rowing the same boat here, the boat in which each one of us thinks, "There are too many chiefs, and not enough Indians. But, if everyone would just listen to me, we would all be better off." We measure and judge each other according to the rules that our parents told us, while living our own lives the way that our parents taught us.

Parents, if you are not a living model of who you want your children to be, then any rule you give them will be taken by them as arbitrary and temporary. Don't worry, I'm speaking to myself here as much as I am speaking to you. I, too, have little ones watching my every move and learning to navigate this life by mimicking what their parents do. My hope, is that while they see my many imperfections, they also see me running to the cross and laying them down at my Savior's feet. We can never underestimate what God did when He sent His Son to live here among us. Not only, was Christ able to live a perfect life and die as a perfect and holy sacrifice in my place so that I might live in God's grace without fear of failure, but He also gave us the bare necessity of a living model to imitate. Likewise, that is what we are to be to our children. We may never live a perfect life as Christ did, but His grace is sufficient for thee! Everything that He EVER did will ALWAYS be enough to make up for everything that we will NEVER be able to do... including, being the perfect parent.

How does all of this rambling fit into the You and I equation that I referenced earlier? Simply this: As a parent with grown children, you have to be willing to take some responsibility for who your children are, good or bad. In taking responsibility for that, it should be easier for you to look around at their generation as a whole and understand that not only are they no worse than your generation, but they are equally as sinful as any living being ever was, and they are just as much in need of a Savior as you are. As a grown child, I must recognize that even if my parents didn't truly teach me better, despite what they told me, that as an adult, I am responsible for my own actions, regardless of how I was brought up. As a Christian, there is never an excuse to behave like an idiot because "It's just the way I was raised", when there is an entire book called "The Bible" that tells me of God's grace and His life changing salvation.

Now, don't get me wrong. There are always other factors in the equation that we may have no control over. All of this is not to say that if you are indeed the perfect parent, then your children will grown up to be spic and span model citizens, never to disappoint a soul. This is simply to say, stop pointing the finger. Be honest with yourself that if you are offended by someone doing something that is simply utterly offensive and disrespectful according to your standards of decency, then you can always take the advice that I give my four and five year old... Ignore them. Turn the other cheek. Yes, you can choose to wallow in the offense, or you can take the high road. They are just as human as you, and just as imperfect. Do what you can actually do something about... YOU. Doing something about YOU typically doesn't require arguing with others and placing blame, or gossiping to others about how awful the offender is, but rather looking inside of your own heart and humbling yourself before God through repentance and receiving His grace to make it through what may seem like a terrible offense at the time. Likewise, I am not saying that all rules are useless and arbitrary. But, just like Jesus called the Pharisees a brood of vipers, so are we as parents if we are shelling out rules that we aren't willing to follow ourselves. We are literally feeding them a venom that sets them up for failure if we are talking the talk without walking the walk.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

To convict one would be to convict us all.


      I had a mother.  She left when I was twelve.  She wasn’t there when I needed her the most.  She had a mother, who worked full time, and spent most of her childhood living with people who weren’t even her own blood.  She wasn’t there when she needed her the most.   My grandmother had a mother.  She died when she was nine.  She wasn’t there when she needed her the most.
       I had a father.  He held his pride closer than he held his children.  He wasn’t there when I needed him the most.  He had a father, who died when he was ten.  He wasn’t there when he needed him the most.  He was raised by a mother, who worked and went to school full time to care for her five children.  She wasn’t there when he needed her the most.  She was the daughter of a criminal.  He spent his time in jail and making a shameful living.  He wasn’t there when she needed him the most.
       My children have a mother.  She spent her time chasing men to fill a void.  She wasn’t there when they needed her the most.
      I am the daughter of a mother who didn’t have a mother, who didn’t have a mother.  I am the daughter of a father who didn’t have a father, and was raised by a mother, who didn’t have a father.  I have born children who don’t have a father, and for many years, I wasn’t there when they needed me the most.
       What are we to do when we are the products of so many generations lacking in parents?  For many years, my heart stewed in anger so great towards my parents and the raw deal that I felt I got as a child.  I was so very bitter not having the affection and attention that I spent so many years craving in silence.  As a child, I was taken over by insecurity and fear.  As a teen, that shyness morphed into a boisterous and bitter hatred for anyone and everyone.  As a young lady, I sought out any man with open arms to find comfort through the night, and I kept them around for as long as I could, but it never lasted, and it never healed.  I have lived a reckless life, void of moral high ground, and full of self-destruction. 
       Now, at twenty-five years old, who do I blame… myself?  My parents?  God himself?
        No.
       Now, at twenty-five years old, I can look back at all my years growing up and look beyond myself to see the parents who raised me.  My parents became parents while they were yet children themselves - not only children, but broken children at best.  They were raised by broken-hearted parents, and not a single one had the knowledge or the resources to raise any child in an ideal manner, myself included.  We are all one in the same, my parents and I, and my grandparents alike.  Will I hang them at the gallows for the rest of their lives for not knowing any better?  At one time, I can say in all transparency, I would have liked to.  But, now, in due time, and as perspective continues to grow, I would have to hang myself as well, for I am as guilty and as innocent as they.
       I was a child born into an unfortunate life, as were they.  Who is there to blame if one was never taught any better, and when taught, couldn’t comprehend?  Only by the grace of God do we all live, and only by the grace of God will our eyes be opened to a better way of life.
 “Then Peter came up and said to him, “Lord, how often will my brother sin against me, and I forgive him?  As many as seven times?  Jesus said to him, “I do not say to you seven times, but seventy-seven times. ” (Matthew 18:21-22, ESV)

Friday, March 15, 2013

In writing a book...


           I think I’ve always felt a certain amount of fear at the thought of writing it all out – my life, that is – a fear of exposing the ones I love, a fear of hurting them, or shaming them, a fear of shaming myself.  I have always wondered of what gifts God may have given me.  I have always longed to have something special to contribute, something artistic, something that touches people deeply, something that someone may find comforting in the darkness, and hold onto knowing that someone feels their pain, something that leads someone out of the darkness and to the knowledge of a Savior.  I have always envied the singers and the painters and the poets for their ability to express snippets of their pain while leaving much to the imagination.  And, while I have dabbled in poetry and short writings, doing much of the same, I have always felt as if it takes off the edge, but never gives me relief of the burdens that weigh down my heart.  I am quickly coming to the point, now, where I cannot deny them any longer. 

I have spent many years getting frustrated with God for giving me a talent I couldn't use, this curse of writing that can help to heal my own broken heart, while feeling that the words I wrote could never be shared.  God has also graced me with compassion, and while my heart has hardened through the years, I still carry immense grief at the thought of hurting the ones I love.  Even still, I pace the floors at night in want, in need, of some way to purge the pain, and telling my story to God alone just doesn't seem to satisfy.  I feel as though He always points my words back at me as if to say, “If you know this, then why aren't you telling the ones that need to hear?”  I have often wondered which would be the greater cross to bear:  Sharing my story and potentially breaking the hearts of those who read about themselves, or refusing to share this story of great redemption that could potentially be the lifeline to some helpless soul, shining down the light of Christ and extending a ladder into their self-inflicted dungeons, that they may see God’s grace that has the power to lift them out of the mire. 

            In recent months, I have concluded that the latter would be the greater cross to bear.  So, pray with me, brothers and sisters in Christ, whether you should see some glimpse of yourself in my story or not, that I not write my words in vain, but that they may be filled with the love and the power of the Holy Spirit.  Pray with me, that the hurting who come across these words will make room for me to sit with them in their darkness, to take comfort in the life that I have led, despite the sinfulness of so many years, and to take heart that it took all of that - every hit and low blow, every minefield that I ignorantly or willingly walked across in my rebellion, every piece of my heart that I lost along the way – all of this, so much darkness to lead me to so much Light.

“Like a bride - cherished, adored and waited for, so intimate with every title that you love her for.  My God, you never fell in love with open eyes.  You chose to die upon the cross.  You knew exactly what I cost.  I was worthless, but you made me worth it.  I was a slave content to beg beneath your table, but you took me in and made me a son.”  - My Epic, “Childbodybride”

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Take my advice, Della.

       4476 Brill Drive.
       I don't think that I'll ever forget that address.  It wasn't my first.  It wasn't my last.  But, it was like a twilight zone, a portion of my life that seems so disproportionately strange in memory, and yet, so oddly fresh.
       A part of me has always been afraid to tell of it.  Another part of me feels as though it may burst if I don't.  I have always been afraid of embarrassing those who endured those years with me, bringing shame to my family, or angering my parents in divulging so much of our private life.  My daddy once said that the great thing about writing fiction is that you can tell your story without anyone ever knowing that it was your's.  I, however, suggest that the great thing about writing nonfiction is that everyone will know that it was your's.  How else would we be a testament to the majesty of God's grace?  Without transparency, we would be nothing more than a fairy tale, unattainable in it's own right, providing warmth to the reader, but no hope for their reality.  Christ has been diligent to teach me that I have nothing in this world to boast about, nothing less than his great glory.  Likewise, I have nothing to hide, for I have been made new.  And with keeping this in mind, I will share with discretion, but honesty.

       "But he said to me, "My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness."  Therefore, I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me.  For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities.  For when I am weak, then I am strong."  -2 Corinthians 12:9-11

       We moved into the blue house when I was four years old.  I was quite sure it was a mansion.  The big empty rooms seemed greater than any house I had ever seen.  But, then again, I was four, and they were empty.  I was too excited and unaware to notice the missing window panes, the rotting floor, or the smoke stained walls.  It wasn't until a few years later that I began to notice that my house wasn't up to par.  The houses on the bus route to school looked nothing like mine.  Not even the other houses on my street looked similar.  Our house sat alone on a few acres of land, family-owned property, apparently.  The house had been empty for years, possibly decades, and it was apparent as such.  We were moving into this neglected house because there would be no rent to pay, as we couldn't afford to pay any.
       It wasn't long before the floor literally fell out from under us.  The window panes that hung like loose teeth in a snaggle-toothed mouth eventually fell, and the holes were covered by sheets of plastic.  The front door was held shut by a twisted piece of coat hanger that latched onto a nail on the wall.  The light fixtures stopped working, one room at a time.  First the bathroom, then the kitchen.  We showered with a garden hose that ran from the kitchen sink to the bathroom, and into the tub...  the bathroom that was only lit by a flashlight that hung from the useless shower head.  The broken toilet was flushed with a bucket full of old bathwater that we would save after a bath for that very reason.  It was excessively hot in the summer, and the house was filled with the humming of box fans.  It was excessively cold in the winter, and we fell asleep to the flickers of a kerosene heater.
       We lived there for eight years.  As frustrating as it was to live in such a circumstance, the challenges of being poor don't often stick out in my mind so much as the wars that raged within those fragile walls.  It isn't easy being a little girl without the answers trying to answer to a demanding parent that expects you to have them.  It is nothing short of confusing to be told that "all I want is your best", only to present your best and be told "I think you can do much better".  It is beyond oppressive to be made to feel like you are always in the way, walking on eggshells, trying not to set off an ill-tempered parent.  An emotional mine field is no place for children.  It grieves them and destroys who they are.  A child can easily become obsessed with "playing their cards right" in hopes of gaining approval, or avoiding wrath.  When you say to a child, "Do it one more time and I'll knock you out a window!", a child, whether young or old, does not know that you are simply "speaking out of anger, and wouldn't actually knock them out a window".  You are big, they are small, and it is a scary thing to be screamed at by an adult red in the face from anger.
       I should put that a bit more personally:
       It was beyond oppressive to be made to feel like I was always in the way, walking on eggshells, trying not to set of an ill-tempered parent.  An emotional mine field was no place for me as a child.  It grieved me and destroyed who I was.  I became obsessed with "playing my cards right" in hopes of gaining approval, or avoiding wrath.  When you said to me, "Do it one more time and I'll knock you out a window!", I didn't know that you were simply "speaking out of anger, and wouldn't actually knock me out a window".  You were big, I was small, and it was a scary thing to be screamed at by an adult red in the face from anger.
       In such a hostile environment, even when I wasn't being taught, there was so much that I was learning.  I became illusive.  I learned to be observant, to speak less and listen more.  I learned to hide.  I learned to keep secrets.  I learned that it was better to tell a person what they wanted to hear, even if it was a lie.  I learned that it was better to give a person what they wanted, even if you didn't want to give it away.  I learned that you only fight the ones who cannot win against you, and you always give in to the ones whom you can never win against.  I learned to manipulate.
       These lessons always translated so powerfully in my life as a young girl.  I learned that a man's attention is going to cost you, and that I, alone, was not of much value.  I never questioned that I did not have to succumb to a boy's demands, no matter how young I was.  It was as if I had a sign on my forehead: "Insecure and unwilling to defend herself"...  and so it was, the boys would come, and I would freeze, not knowing that I had an option in the matter.  It happened as early as kindergarten.  And it's as though it never stopped.  Sexual abuse is not something that you can hide from, especially when you're sitting next to them in class.  Sexual abuse only reinforced what I already knew, that I was not my own.  I remember one boy, specifically, who would never let it go.  I avoided him for three years of elementary school, until one day he ended up in my third grade classroom.  He looked at me and smiled, and I began to feel sick.  He then walked back to my teacher, and at some point came up behind me and whispered into my ear, "You remember that time in kindergarten?"  And then he laughed as he walked away, turning back to smile at me before walking out of the classroom.  The details of what happened, when, where, and with who, are almost insignificant next to the fact that this was a child who was acting like a predator, treating me - another child - like prey...  in a public classroom, under the noses of ill-supervising teachers.  Parents, be aware, these things do happen, even in the best of schools.  Pray for your children daily as you send them to school each day, as you never know who's company they are in.

       If I could give myself any advice today, I would say, "Della, mind your temper, as it can wreak havoc on the hearts of your little ones.  Be angry, and sin not.  Do not yell.  Do not threaten.  Always discipline in love.  How you treat them now will determine how they allow themselves to be treated in the future.  Treat them as though God handmade them just for you, because He did.  Delight in their laughter, rejoice with them about little things, and love them patiently through their trials.  Hearing them tell you a pointless story in three-year-old jargon is far more priceless than catching the last five minutes of your favorite show.  Don't become so busy that you can't help them when they need it, as soon they won't ask for your help at all.  Most of all, do not teach them wretchedness through your own poor example.  You teach them what is permissible, not by the rules that you set for them, but by the rules that you have set for yourself.  If you allow poor behavior of yourself, expect to receive it, also, from them.  These children, simply put, are reflections and refinements of your own self.  Learn from them, that you may lead them through the guidance of the Holy Spirit...  lead them diligently to Christ.  Be immersed in Him, so that He is all that your children will see.  Be their ambassador for Christ."


"Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come. All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation; that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation. Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God."  - 2 Corinthians 5:17-20 

       

Saturday, December 1, 2012

The beginning of grace... (Part 3/3)


        The months that followed our union were worse than any I had ever lived.  Now, I belonged to him.
I remember one night not long after he totaled one of his cars while driving drunk, he found the keys to his sports car that his brother had hidden from him, and off he went.  A few hours passed, and there was a knock at the door.  I looked out and saw a police car, and so I opened the door and stepped out onto the porch where an officer stood holding Nel by the arm.  He was covered in blood, pieces of glass dug into his skin, visibly sticking out of his face and arms, and yes, very much drunk.  I was speechless.
“Does this guy live here?” the officer asked.
“He does…”
The officer went on to tell me that Nel had driven his sports car across the median on I-30, and proceeded to drive directly under an oncoming 18-wheeler, which then ran over the front end of his tiny car, barely missing the passenger seat where he had been sitting.  After hearing that, I couldn't understand, first of all, how he made it out alive, but second of all, why this officer wasn't taking him to the hospital, or jail.
“Ma’am, he refused medical attention, and our jails are full tonight.  We called INS (immigration), and they don’t want him either.”
“Officer, isn't there anything you can do with him?  We aren't safe here when he’s drunk, and now we don’t have a car to go anywhere.”  I was literally crying, begging this officer to do something.  His only response was, “We charged him with a DUI, but we can’t hold him.  Just give us a call if he tries to hurt you or the children.  Have a good night, ma‘am.”
To say that I was baffled by all of this would be an understatement.  It merely reinforced my feelings of isolation and desperation, the feeling that there was no way out.  Though my faith in Christ was growing, I still felt obligated by this marriage certificate to stick around, and so I learned how to “play his game”.
Over the remainder of our time together, things progressively got worse.  But, I became quieter and more obliging while he was sober, gaining his trust, as he was generally paranoid that I was looking for an escape.  His sober self became more permissive, more relaxed, and began allowing me more freedoms, such as grocery shopping without him, and visiting family without having to check in as often.  All the while, his drunken self became worse, becoming violent and destructive.  His verbal taunts became physical marks.  Things had gotten so bad that even his brothers told me that they had had their fill of his nonsense, and would no longer come to my aid if the boys and I were in danger, and because they were tired of fighting him, they would simply leave if things got out of hand.
I became more bold in protecting my children while he was drunk, as I knew he wouldn't remember my actions once he was sober, fighting him if need be.  There were nights when I would lock him out of the house, thinking we were safe, only to watch him punch through the windows and climb in after us.  He wanted the boys, always saying that he needed to “take them away”, that they didn't need to be here, which always sent chills down my spine.  His drunken nights turned our home into a war zone - shattered glass on the floor, blood spatter on the walls, broken furniture, and tables turned upside down.  It was routine, with me cleaning it all up once things had settled down again.
I had to be so prepared for his drunken nights, that while he was sober, I would do things like rearrange the furniture in our home in order to aid in my escapes, as it had become the norm to literally have to run for our lives when he was in a drunken rage.  I would claim that I was just “freshening up” the look of our home, and he would even praise me for it, when in reality, I was strategically placing furniture items in places where it would be easy to barricade doors, or trip him up, anything to slow him down as we got away.
As scared as I would be when he was in a rage, I would act as though I wanted to hug him, just so that I could sneak the car keys out of his pocket so that the boys and I would have a chance to get away.  Too many nights, I would have to do little things here and there to prepare to get way, like quietly unlocking the front door…  and then waiting until he wasn't watching to sneak the baby bag outside the door…  wait until he wasn't watching again, preparing for the moment when he would be distracted or passed out just enough, as it wouldn't be for long, so that I could snatch the babies out of their beds and run to the car, hopefully getting inside and locking the doors before he could reach us.  Most nights, for time’s sake, there would only be enough time to sit the boys in the front seat, hold onto them with my right hand, while using my left hand to steer, and I would speed away while he often chased after the car, trying to bust out the windows.  When I felt like I was far enough away, I would pull over and buckle them into their car seats.  Sometimes, I would go to my parents house, while other times, whether it was due to the time of night or my own feelings of shame, we would just spend the night in the car, and not return home until I knew he was sober.
I knew that we couldn't carry on like this, the boys and I spending at least one weekend a month in a ratty hotel, which was all that we could afford, or asking to stay the weekend with my parents, all the while simply returning home as soon as things had settled down.  He was dangerous, and our need to get out was urgent.  I continued to pray for a way of escape from harms way, while still being sure that divorce wasn't an option, as he hadn't dismissed me, nor could I prove yet that he had committed adultery, despite my suspicions.
         At some point, during the winter months of 2010, as I was gaining his trust more and more, I began to mention the idea of me getting a job.  I presented the idea only occasionally, generally around bill time, as it was more apparent to him that money was tight, despite his having a good job, since so much of his money went to alcohol.  He eventually consented, but with conditions.  I had to work with Hispanic women, as he held very little regard for Americans, and a job where there were no men.  I found a listing for a professional maid service in a Latino magazine, and so I applied and was hired soon after.  Another condition was that the boys had to be kept by his female relatives, or the wives of his own friends, no daycare.  I wasn't extremely comfortable with this, but I knew that I had to make money somehow, and I knew that these were kind women, and so I agreed, praying that things would soon begin to change.  As he grew tired of driving me to and from work, he requested that I find someone to carpool with.  Luckily, there was no one readily available.  In January of 2011, he agreed to let me buy a car, again, with conditions.  It had to be in his name.  I prayed desperately for this car to be made mine and not his, as I knew that it wouldn't truly be resourceful if he could take it at any time.
As we shopped around for cars, we finally decided on one to purchase.  As we were required to insure it before signing the final papers, we left the dealership to visit his insurance agent.  I still felt so disappointed that my money was going to a car that wouldn't truly be mine, and I tried hard to appear happy about buying the car for the sake of convenience, which was all he cared about.  As we were applying for insurance, the rates that were quoted to him were outrageous.  Whether it was due to his DUIs or car accidents, I’m not sure, but what happened next just about sent me to the moon with excitement.  He asked the agent to give us a quote using my information, which she did, and those rates were much more acceptable, thus the insurance was bought in my name.  We walked out of the agent’s office and got into the car, at which point he starts the car and says, “Well, I guess we’ll have to put the car in your name then.”
I couldn't believe my ears.  He didn't realize that the car didn't have to be in my name for insurance purposes, but I wasn't about to educate him!  It was all I could do not to shout for joy, praising God as his providence unfolded, but I casually said, “Okay.”  I felt like my insides were going to burst, and I knew that we were on our way to freedom.  Going back to the dealer and signing the paper work to buy the car in my name was so hard to do without crying.  It was as if I had been locked in a dark room for over a year, and now someone was handing over the key, literally.
As I continued working, God granted me favor at my new job, and the boss, who wasn't the nicest person, was becoming generous for no real reason at all, always giving me many of the highest paying homes to clean, and always concerned with how I was doing personally, even though she knew nothing of my home life.  At the same time, all of a sudden, both of the women who had been alternating days to babysit the boys while I was at work became otherwise obligated and could no longer watch them.  One of them, who had been seeking full time employment for over two years, received a job offer.  The other lady, who had two daughters, the youngest of which was nine years old, had been praying for years to have another baby, and she became pregnant…  what timing!  I saw this as a hiccup in my plan, as it could prevent me from working.  I doubted God’s sovereignty, as this was a new concept to me.  I went to my boss and explained to her my dilemma.  She told me to wait a moment, and she went to the back office and made a phone call.  She talked to the owner of a well-respected daycare nearby and offered to exchange cleaning services for discounted childcare for my boys.  I was blown away.  Suddenly, all of my dependence on this man was beginning to unravel, and my eyes were being drawn to a God who obviously loved me more than I could imagine.
         This idea of God being in control, being sovereign over all things, believers and non-believers alike, was so hard for me to wrap my mind around.  And there He was, proving it to me, taking care of details that were completely out of my control.
         He was preparing a way... and I was falling in love with a Savior.

"Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. In love he predestined us for adoption as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will, to the praise of his glorious grace, with which he has blessed us in the Beloved. In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace, which he lavished upon us, in all wisdom and insight making known to us the mystery of his will, according to his purpose, which he set forth in Christ as a plan for the fullness of time, to unite all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth."    Ephesians 1:3-10


Read "The beginning of grace... (Part 1/3)"
Read "The beginning of grace... (Part 2/3)"

The beginning of grace... (Part 2/3)


       I began to study my bible while Nel was at work.  I began to talk to my sister and learn, for the first time in my life, the truth of God’s salvation and grace, a concept that seemed so out of reach in my mind.  Though, I could say with much ease, “This is what I believe…” and have much aligned with what the bible teaches, my heart was far from understanding and accepting to these truths, and my doubt in God’s love for me was such a second nature that I, myself, couldn't even detect it.
       What a heart, so full of foolishness and betrayal, I had within me.  I can’t remember the exact moment that I finally surrendered, ultimately, to Christ and His great mercy, but I remember there being a great change.  I could no longer lay next to this man that was not my husband.  It was as though I was drowning when I sinned.  With my faith still weak, I also didn't feel like I could leave him, as I had two little babies and no job, it didn't seem practical in my mind.
       My compromise was to remain in the home if he would go to church with me, and also that we get married.  I didn't want to spend my life with this man, but as I already felt trapped, I felt like a marriage would at least solve some of the immorality of the relationship.  (There I go, "solving" my own problems again.)  He said that we would marry “soon”, and to just be patient and not press him about it.  My response was that in the meantime, there would no longer be any physical relationship prior to marriage.  He disagreed, and in my ignorance, I thought that I would simply avoid him until we were able to marry.  As this was such a faulty plan, he simply took from me what I was no longer willing to give him.  It wasn't until then that my eyes began to truly see him for what he was.
        He was a predator.  A darkness hid behind his eyes, and yet got bolder every day, and I became fearful that this darkness would overtake me.  His power over me grew, as did the wounds in my heart.
There were several times over the year or so that I spent with him that I would pack up, asking my parents to come and get us, as I had no car.  (His promise to buy me a new car was never fulfilled.  I would later come to find out that he was the one who had been responsible for my car being vandalized soon after we began dating, and water being poured in the gas tank, rendering it useless as I had no money to repair it.  He wanted me to be in need, so that he could easily make himself into the one that I needed.)  Between my fear, and his promises lies, I always went back, as if my mind didn't understand that I was not obligated to this man to whom I was not married.
       Finally, N was born.  I had a c-section.  Nel and I had already talked about how I would be unable to perform the usual tasks around the home, and he acted completely understanding about that fact.  I remember the day that N and I got to go home.  I was looking forward to the rest, home from the hospital, cuddling this sweet little baby, and watching B love on his new baby brother.  I walked in the door and sat down, holding both B and N in my lap, having it sink in for the first time what a situation I had in front of me… two babies, and no husband.  I wasn't sitting for five minutes before Nel came in the door, set my bags on the floor and said, “You know, this house is looking like a mess.  Maybe you can take care of that for me, sweetie.”  He winked, and left the room.  I wasn't sure if he was serious, until he came back and confirmed that, in fact, he was, and that it was almost time to start cooking dinner.  My heart sank, hitting me in the gut, pulling a dark cloud over my head.  I felt as if I had just brought this brand new baby into a home filled with darkness.  It didn't take two days of cleaning and cooking, nursing N, and chasing after B, before my incision had broken open, a pain beyond anything I could ever imagine, and yet, still, I was told to “stop letting the house get so messy”.   He finally allowed me to go to the doctor, and only then did he believe that I was, in fact, in need of rest, and he backed off a bit.
It wasn't long before the drinking began to pick up again.  It would last for literal days at a time.  He was a binge drinker.  He would remain sober for no more than 6 weeks at a time, and then a solid 2-4 days of pure, aggravated drunkenness would ensue.  Soon enough, the sober periods grew shorter, and the drunken rages became worse, wrecking cars, and hiding waitresses phone numbers in his wallet, spitefully waking the children throughout the night, wanting to take them for a drive.   He was becoming so aggressive that I couldn't sleep at night, even when he was sober.  I felt as though I had to "stand guard", sure that he had plans to hurt myself or the boys.  It was a feeling I couldn't shake.
        Time dragged by as his drinking became worse and worse, he was often driving drunk, coming home and telling me stories of the harm that he had done to the men that he had fought with any given night.  I was becoming afraid, confident that he was capable of acting on his threats, though his aggression hadn't yet turned violent.
        However, six weeks after N was born, he let me know that he was ready to get married.  By this time, I was already deep in prayers for an escape, even though my feet were still unwilling to move, and his “proposal” not only came as a shock, but also a disappointment, as I was truly hoping that he would tire of me and just throw us out on his own accord.  Apparently, that wasn't his plan.  He intended to marry me and move us all to Guatemala, his home country.  After much fighting, we finally went for a marriage license, and the following Saturday, we went to meet with a Justice of the Peace who was willing to marry us over the weekend.  As we arrived, my two sweet boys in the back seat, I couldn't even get out of the car.  We were parked right beside the Justice of the Peace and his wife, who had just arrived to his office a moment before us, and I began to sob uncontrollably.  I was trembling.  I was so afraid, my heart screaming, “You don’t have to do this.”  As I unraveled,  Nel got nervous that someone would see me, and so he backed up the car and drove around to the other side of the building.  I begged him not to make me do this.
He took a deep breath.  He was grinding his teeth, but wouldn't say a word.  Finally, he shifted in his seat and turned around to look at the boys…  my boys…  and, after another deep breath, he looked me in the eye and calmly said, “If you don’t want to marry me, then I won’t make you…  but, you need to say goodbye to your boys, because they stay with me, whether you like it or not.  You can leave right now, but you will never see these boys again.”
Again, I wasn't sure how serious his threat was, until I challenged it.  He smiled as he informed me that he had already told his family in Guatemala how many problems he was having with me, and that his mother would be happy to raise my children as her own if it came to that.  This man came into the country illegally, and in my heart, I felt very sure that he was not afraid to leave that way, with my boys in tow.
       Twenty minutes later, we were married.

       To be continued...

The beginning of grace... (Part 1/3)


I’m about twenty-four hours away from heading out on a trip to Arkansas.  I’m so excited, I can hardly sleep, and so I write.  It’s nearly 3a.m. and I have been here looking through old photos for a few hours now.  I have so much to be thankful for, honestly… So.  Much.
Christmas is near, and it’s exciting to think about going this time of year to the only place that has ever stood out in my mind as “home”.  Physical location has never held much weight in my life, but I do love Arkansas, though, it’s been a while since I've been there… one year and nine months.
One year and nine months ago, I was working for a professional maid service.  I was cleaning my second house of the day when I got a phone call, and it was him.  He was drunk.  Again.
It had been just a little over a month since I had walked away.  That day was one of much clarity for me.  He came home for his lunch break, as he did every work day.  B was crying and was refusing to take a nap.  He said he would fix this.  He picked him up and took him to the bedroom.  Before I could even get up from where I was sitting, B let out a scream like I’d never heard before… it was one of pain.  The bedroom door swung open and B ran to me, screaming, red-faced and coughing, the marks already appearing around his neck.  He had been choked.  That man had his sober hands around my baby’s neck.  This wasn't the drunken man that we knew we had to run from.  This was the sober man.  His evil went beyond his liquor, and this time it was clear.  This time, that my very little boy was the one with red marks around his neck, and not myself.  This time it was clear, though it should have been long before, I had to get out.
It had taken months of planning.  For most of the time that we were together I wasn't allowed much freedom.  So many red flags missed or overlooked, I had gotten myself in so deep.
Not long after Nel and I began dating, my car was vandalized and had water poured in the gas tank, making the car unusable.  This man offered to help me out, and to buy me a new car… he offered to take care of me.  Sulking in the repercussions of previous poor decisions, I was a single mom of a four month old, with another on the way.  Desperate, I felt as though he was my best bet.  And , so, I took him up on his offer.  Soon after, he said that he and his brothers were moving into a house outside of town, and that if we were to stay together, I needed to go with them.  And, so, I did.  It was a nice home, large, plenty of acres, a horse farm, actually.  I felt like I was dreaming, what luck!  I could sit at the dining room table early in the morning and look out the window to see nothing but dewy fields and  ten deer at a time creeping cautiously out of the woods.  I could look out the living room window and watch the horses kick about and play.  We didn't make it through the first week before he didn't come home one night, and when he did, he was too drunk to stand up straight.  I was a bit confused, as he had previously told me that he didn't care much for drinking.  I wanted to brush it off as a fluke…  but that was hard to do as he continued to drink for the next two days, wasting about, making a nuisance of himself.  Still, I wanted to believe that this was out of the ordinary, and that his apologies were sincere once he sobered up.
That was also about the time that I began to understand my role in the house.  I was the woman, and I was to be busy about the house, not saying too much in the presence of his brothers, and not taking part in conversation at the dinner table.  Dinner was to be freshly done and plated, hot, the moment he walked in the door, even if he got home at a different time every day.  If he or his brothers needed anything, I was to serve them, and I could eat when they were done, if need be.  I chalked this up to his culture simply being more conservative than mine, and so I tried my best to do it well.  What I didn't understand, at the time, was that this man simply wanted me to ask “how high?” whenever he got the notion to shout, “Jump!”   He was a manipulator, an alcoholic, and largely narcissistic.  The more things began to spiral downward, the more my eyes began to open to just how deep of a hole I had gotten myself and my baby boy into, and the more I began to realize the consequences playing out before my eyes of following after the security of a mortal man.  I began to feel convicted about so many things.  I began to feel my heart longing for God, a god  that I didn't know, a god that I thought I had pegged as being existent, yet disappointed and ashamed of me.  I didn't feel that I could turn to Him, and when I began to verbalize my desire to, I was told by this man how worthless I was, how little of a chance there was for me.  Though I had always had a knowledge of God, I never really knew Him, and even when I thought I did, it wasn't really Him that I knew…  it was the god that I had made him out to be in my head, the god that reflected all of the men that I had known in my lifetime.  A god that did show love at times, but one that I felt I had to hide from, oh that if he were to see my sin, he could never love me… surely, he maintained the same opinion that these men held of me.
     
          To be continued...

Read "The beginning of grace... (Part 2/3)"
Read "The beginning of grace... (Part 3/3)"