‘Lead Me’

I first heard this song in 2010. I was in a marriage that left me broken and used. The song convicted me, because I wanted so much for my husband to be a godly partner and father, to be someone who I could freely love and worship God with. I prayed for this for 17 years. It didn’t happen. After years of threats, battering, and manipulation, that marriage finally fell apart in 2011. My worst fear came true and I lost my children, but  God knew what would happen, even when no one else did, and like the ever-watchful Guardian, He’s been there since the beginning.

Two years ago, after my failed marriage, when my world was completely turned upside down, God saved me when I was drowning in sorrow.  He reunited me with my childhood friend Adam.  Adam helped my soul heal.  He didn’t know it, but he was God’s instrument.

Instrument…. that has more than one meaning to Adam.  Adam is a lifetime musician.  Since he was old enough to hold an instrument, he’s played…whatever he can get his hands on. You leave him alone with it for ten minutes and he figures it out. Well, God has left me alone with him for two years  🙂  Over 24 months I’ve seen him grow from out of his own shell, and release emotional pain that has manifested physically.  I’ve watched him survive a stroke and rebuild himself slowly, and have been extremely blessed to watch as he accepted Christ and became a baptized believer, with the conviction of a knight.  My heart was renewed that day.

The Bible says in 1st Peter 3:1, Wife, be subject to your own husband, so that even if he does not obey the word, he may be won without a word by your conduct.  My grandmother told me that verse when I was in my mid-20′s. I was newly married at the time to my (now ex) husband, and I had asked her what to do, a little bit desperate, because my husband was not Christian.  We didn’t share the same beliefs about God.  Very clearly, the Bible gave instruction. I prayed every day during our marriage (which lasted from 1995-2011), for him to be baptized, for him to share time with me reading the Bible at home everyday.  He was jealous of my relationship with God. At first, he scoffed at me for seeking out a church home,and then belittled me when I taught Sunday school, and then he came to accept my doing this, but he never condoned it.

Deep down inside, I knew that my ex-husband and I would divorce someday, not knowing the how or the when or the why, so in faith I continued to serve my husband, and love him. Sometimes that required work. I had to force myself to love him. He was cold and insensitive, and constantly spewed ugliness out of his mouth, sometimes breaking me down, which made me feel worthless.  Sometimes we even fought physically, because I would constantly fail in my husband eyes.

Faith was my strength. In God and in the verses like that one in 1st Peter.  I leaned on God.  I lived in a constant state of prayer. I believed that God was watching and protecting me and my children, even as I was attacked by my spouse, as I lost various freedoms over the years due to his jealousy of my relationships with family and friends.  And when he threw me out in 2011, when he bribed my children to stay with him instead of going with me, I still prayed and leaned on God’s understanding – which is greater than my understanding.

During this time, I’ve been surviving…. and I wanted to do more than just survive, I wanted life.  I longed for the closeness that God, and no one else, gives me.  So I grieved the loss of my children. I grieved the loss of security and self, and let it go. That was a very hard transition.  During this time, God has been building me up to prepare me for discipleship.  I do this with a humble heart.

Even though Adam and I have been a couple now for 2 years, I feel as if we are at the beginning of something beautiful, because we are now both Christians who both love God, and we want to share that with others, in celebration for all that God has done, is doing, and will do. I feel like God rewarded me for my faith all those years, for putting my trust in Him, for giving the life that was out of my control over to Him.

It’s true…my children are still living with my ex-husband. My heart still aches for them. But my heart is healing. Adams heart is healing. What a difference it makes in your life, when you just let Jesus in! Watching Adam be baptized renewed my soul. Sharing bible time together as we both grow in Christ and allow ourselves to be molded, and praying together, is such a gift! It’s such a peaceful foundation to root and grow a relationship.

Thank you God, for everything. For convicting my heart back then, for protecting my children through all that has changed, and for convicting Adam to become a godly partner, molded by You, just for me. You are the Great Physician, and truly the Miracle Worker.

Immeasurable Miracles

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I took this photo 2 days ago. With it, I want to talk about healing.

God is the Great Physician. God heals miraculously, spiritually, physically, and emotionally.

Sometimes when we pray for healing, we think the prayer is answered only if the measured miracle happens – the illness disappears.  For a disease, we ask for a cure.  During and after a crisis, we ask for safety and security.  When we are watching a loved one deteriorate at the very end, we ask for a peaceful passing.

I remember 3 months ago, praying for Adam to survive his stroke.  There was a warm feeling that rushed over me when I pleaded with God for a miracle, and I knew Adam would live. I knew he would never be the same, but that there would be a greater good happening as a result.  I didn’t know the details. I didn’t know the when or the how, or the why. I’m thankful for that, too – because waking up every day, seeing his progression as his spirit and his physical body heals,  is such a gift.

As I’ve watched the physical and spiritual transformation happening to my life partner over the last 3 months….over the last month…over the last week….as I come to grips with his newness and appreciate his oldness, I see Healing before our eyes that is without form, immeasurable, and undeniably God.

The world around us says that healing takes place one way, but God will give it His way. In truth, the Healing that comes is for the Glory of our Creator, and it’s only in whatever form God says is right.

It’s not always visible and immediate, but it is given always.  

Watching God Work

3 months ago, Adam survived a massive stroke that stripped him of his left side, of many memories, of the ability to open his left hand and play guitar, of the ability to remember the words and chords to the hundreds of songs he has played to eclectic crowds for almost the last 30 years. He’s spent the last 3 months relearning how to walk and talk, trying to grasp the concept of time and keep track of it. God has moved Mt. Vesuvius for Adam to heal mentally and physically as much as he already has.

Today, another miracle happened. Today Adam was baptized by Christ!  Not in a church, but in the campground where we reside here on Mother Earth. Because, that is where we are.  Adam wanted to be washed clean and become God’s servant, and he reached out in obedience.  Dian, our friend who is not an ordained pastor, but simply a brave, obedient and open minded servant of God, agreed to drive an hour to our doorstep, and give Adam God’s gift of salvation.

It was better than being in a church! I watched the partner God gave to me two years ago today, become the husband that God is making for me.  I watched a shell of a man that I have known and loved for 27 years become filled with the Holy Spirit, and sins washed away, curses removed, and a lifelong hunger filled.

I’ll never forget what Adam said as he repented his sins – “I wanna be washed clean, ” He begged, “Please let’s get some water.” He could barely sit still, he wanted it so bad.

I’ll never forget the words Dian spoke as she prayed over him before and after she used my grandmas old pot to pour the water over Adam’s head.   She asked that all his afflictions be taken away, addictions lifted, and he be healed, and if God sees fit for Adam to play the guitar again, that God use him however He see’s fit, to fill hearts with heavenly music and lead others to Christ. I felt stones being laid, like the beginning of a path.

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It goes to show that you don’t have to be a member of a church to be used by God, to spread truth and give hope and strength.  You don’t have to be certified on paper. You just have to have a heart for God, and be brave enough to answer the call when you’re asked.  It was breath taking. And I know that in order for me to be the wife Adam needs in our future, that I need to woman-up and give Adam Godly discipleship.

 

The Other Side of My Cardboard

God has really worked on me today…this morning I woke up so unable to celebrate the Easter holiday, apathetic and still buried in sorrow from the loss of my children…

My heart is broken. That hasn’t changed. But, I have so many reasons to celebrate Easter. I know that Jesus is my Savior. I love God, but God loves me a lot more.

If I can add to this cardboard testimony….

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Signs of Equality

8545_10151845914042468_2116655436_nI love the equal signs that have flooded Facebook today!  The message is warm, and ultimately respectful. I so want to see Congress grow a pair…and take action to allow equality in every aspect of life, and marriage is only part of that picture.  How sad it is, that we must rely on a government that was built on freedom from oppression, and developed with fierce diversity….to dictate to us… who we can marry, who we can legally kiss, hold, live a life with, parent with, cherish the golden years with, and die beside.

If you need a social comparison of how bizarre it is…to judge people by who they love…to understand it..

I wasn’t prejudiced in the 70’s growing up, when integrated schools were “new” and “being tried out experimentally in various school systems” in Alabama. I was raised to be open minded, to form bonds with people based on their personality, not by their skin color, not by what they wore, not by what they believed in, not by what political party they supported, or who they married…by my grandparents, who were all born in the 1910’s-1920’s – who must have been raised to be equally respectful of others by their parents and grandparents (born in the 1880’s-1910’s), despite societies norms which purposely divided people according to race in the time of my grandparents and parents, and according to sex in the times of my great-grandparents.

In this day and age, it’s almost ridiculous to think that white women were not treated equally, not given an equal chance as a white men to have an education, or to vote, or to work, or to make an equal wage. It’s almost absurd to think that people were once separated in schools, or assigned to different classrooms, simply because their skin colors were not the same. I remember not being able to share a classroom with my neighborhood playmates in the first years of elementary. It’s painful, but it was real. I saw it.  Alabama was one of the last to integrate. It blows my mind personally, to think that if you had the unfortunate experience of being born a natural descendant…if you were of the 3rd or 4th, or 10th generation of a person who was kidnapped and sold off the docks of Africa in the 1700-1800’s, and you were born and raised in the USA, and you worked here, and raised your family… and you were even able to fight for the country in war and die with pride doing so, you were still not allowed to cast a vote in my country until the 1960’s.  You couldn’t even use the same bathroom or drink from the same water fountain.  That sounds so painful to read in black and white. The “you can’t be gay” rule is no less ridiculous, absurd…painful.

Please let today be a new beginning for equality in marriage across the USA. Many of my friends and some of my family have been waiting on this moment.

Some of them for a very long time.

It Happened To Me

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I’m not going to spill a sob story. I am going to say things that are hard to read, but what I’m really talking about between the lines, is resilience. Not victimization. Want someone to pity? Find another blog.  That being said, I do want to talk about it, get it out, and close the book on it.

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All my young life, I was a wild, spirited person, living in a quiet outer shell.  I was an intellectual child, wise beyond my years, who loved reading, who loved doing my older aunts high school algebra homework by age 7, and who loved writing. I started writing stories when I was only 10.  It was an escape. But, I had started the habit of escaping at a very young age. I was drawing with charcoal on concrete from as young as…. well, old enough to grasp my fingers around the lump of charred firewood.

From as far back as I can recall, I loved the thrill of a high. After being raped at age 14 by two boys from the high school I attended for just one year in Alabama, I moved to Virginia to live with my mother and, despite her being a chemical dependency nurse at a local mental hospital, I started using drugs like marijuana, and massive amounts of liquor to achieve the escape I longed for.  I became an EMT at a local rescue squad at age 15.  I wasn’t popular in high school. I wasn’t high maintenance, didn’t care about owning only one pair of jeans, and didn’t spend hours in front of a mirror getting ready for school. My priorities were schoolwork, and fulfilling my need to escape reality however I could on any given day. I went through boyfriends left and right between the ages of 15 and 18.  I had been married twice by age 21. I was intensely sexual, and secretly loved every moment of it. I didn’t know why I had always been different from other women my age, but I would find out when I was 22 years old and pregnant with my first child.

I think that the buried memories of my young childhood came during that pregnancy, because it was the first time since it happened,  that the part of my physical body that had been damaged so bad as a child, was once again being controlled by someone else, and like then, I was having constant abdominal pain.

The memory came in my 10th week of pregnancy. My cousin was digging in the closet and pulled out a ukelele that once belonged to my great-uncle Ray, who died when I was 7.  I had always remembered him fondly.  He was gentle and kind to me. He used to find great pleasure in feeding me candied orange slices. I was crazy about those things. He would entertain me by playing this old ukelele. He would sing and play, and I would dance in my little dress that my mother had hand stitched. I can still recall, looking down as I twirled around at his request, watching my little feet turn in my black dress shoes. That memory must have been of a holiday like Easter, because I hardly ever wore a dress.

My cousin playfully strummed the ukelele. Something stirred in the pit of my stomach, and my blood turned ice cold.  Every internal warning bell, every heightened sense of awareness crept through my body starting from that cold pit, until it reached out into every pore of my skin, and I started to sweat. In that moment my ears were ringing, and I was breathing like a stalked animal hiding under a rock, praying to not be seen. I was outside of my body, watching what happened next.

I didn’t say a word. I gave her no warning. I was in a strange haze. I simply grabbed the instrument out of my shocked cousins hands, and smashed it into pieces against the wall…and without any explanation, walked out of the house, crying so hard I could barely see the ground in front of me. I was shaking, feeling vulnerable and betrayed. All I knew was that it was something that I recognized, but I knew it was from a very dark place that had no name… and I knew I hadn’t felt since I was very young.

When I was outside, I wrapped my hands around my pregnant belly, as if by doing so, I could check on my baby.  The air felt different.  I was no longer innocent, and the sky somehow knew it.  I didn’t feel alone either.  I felt the love and support of my family, even before I knew why.  I immediately told my mother. She broke down in tears. She had known all along, hoping I would never remember.

Very quickly after that day, memories came. Little flashes here and there, triggered by different things.  Springtime brought memories. That Easter I was hospitalized for dehydration because I couldn’t stop vomiting. I didn’t have morning sickness. I had constant all day and all night sickness. The usual joys of preparing for motherhood were not there.  I would get sick just by going shopping, triggered by looking for a crib, buying baby clothes, a car seat.  Although the clear memory of being raped by my great-uncle was of when I was  4 years old, other ones, of just being touched inappropriately and feeling helpless, or of fallacio , were pre-verbal, before my first steps.

When I was 20 weeks along, I found out that I was carrying a girl.  I had known from the beginning, just because I felt very close to my unborn child. I had this undeniable connection, and I was becoming a tiger. I wanted to protect her even before she was born. I was scared to death of the world she was being born into. My only solace was that my abuser was dead, and he had been for a very long time.  I joined a child sex abuse survivors group when I was 30 weeks along.  I started seeing a psychiatrist regularly. I still wanted my memories to be made up, but you just couldn’t make up the things I was saying, and unfortunately they were being validated by surviving relatives who knew my great-uncle.

It turns out I was probably his last, in a long line of children including his own, who he violated. He was never arrested for it, even though he was caught several times and thrown out of where ever he was living at the time. He was always the first to volunteer to babysit. That was how he got me. My mother was in college to be a nurse at the time I was born. He babysat me from about age 6 weeks, when her maternity leave ended, until I was 4.  Uncle Ray was thrown out of my grandmothers house when she walked in on him and me.

It happened the day I was wearing the dress, and spinning around and around, looking at my shoes.  It’s no wonder I never saw that dress again. My mind blocks out the blood stains that I’m sure were there. I remember it was trimmed with red velvet stripes, had white lace under the skirt and on the sleeves, and had a bell sown into the hem, that I lived to jingle. I would spin until I got dizzy to hear it. I remember abdominal pain afterwards. Burning when I urinated, back to back unexplained urinary infections that concerned my pediatrician. I was an insomniac until I was about 7 years old, afraid of the dark and of what was around the corner.

Huh….7…..maybe on some level, at that tender age when I found out he was dead, I knew it was safe, even though I had already buried the memories of what he had done. He was my favorite uncle, when I was 7.  Knowing now, that he could’ve destroyed my tiny womb and my ability to have children, by violating me with his adult body when my body was so small, still to this day I want to kill him.  I’m 43, and that’s a waste of my energy.

With this cleansing breath, as I type this, I give that to God.

Messages in The Clouds

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I took this photo as Adam was driving down Highway 441 in Sevierville. The mountains on the horizon are the Smokey’s.  The sun was creeping down the sky, peeking out from behind a cloud that looked like an eagle with its wings outstretched, and so I grabbed my camera as fast as I could, to capture and keep it forever. I wrote the “message from God” on the photograph because that’s what I was feeling as I snapped that picture and gazed into the clouds.  It was an almost verbal  response that I felt in my heart, to an ominous feeling in my gut. We were about to get rain… a lot of it.

Just a few hours later, the rain started pouring down.  That was when the Little Pigeon River flooded and just about washed us away. It rose 4 feet in less than an hour.  I wrote about it in my other blog. It’s in the January archives of It’s Not What You Know, titled Roll, Back Water….  

It took me a month to emotionally recover from that ordeal.  Adam and I both had our share of nightmares of rain and being washed downstream, dreams of the cold water waist high, losing everything. In reality – by what I can only say was a true miracle – we lost nothing but our clothes and a few personal items.  Our very good friends and the Red Cross helped us dig our way out. The river was level with the lip of our front door, but didn’t come in the house.

I’ll never question why – because I know in my heart, that the whole situation was Being Taken Care Of, before the crisis, and after.