Worthy; recovering from emotional abuse, January 10, 2014

Image Most of us step into marriage with the greatest expectations of a lifetime spent loving and being loved. Sure, we’ll have our ups and downs, just like everyone else, but we’ll work through whatever comes our way, together, because that’s what people who love each other do, right?

I married my second boyfriend. Throughout high school and college, I can count on one hand the different guys I went out with, so it’s safe to say I didn’t date a lot. I was that other girl, you know, everyone’s “little sister.” I had a herd of “big brother” friends and protectors, but few expressed any romantic interest.

When I married “Don” (not his real name), I was just finishing nursing my wounds from the “big breakup” with my college sweetheart. It had been two years, and “Don” seemed the antithesis of my first boyfriend. He was a few years older, reserved, cerebral, in the ministry, and an east-coaster. My first boyfriend was from Chicago, so dating someone with a completely different philosophy on pizza might be a good idea, right? Word to the wise, don’t base your dating decisions on hand tossed versus deep dish. Just sayin’ ;p

“Don” and I took a lot of walks. He was a great conversationalist and offered a lot of deep thoughts and clever phrases. He was fun in a dark, droll kind of way – Mr. Rochester to my Jane. The romantic in me thought it was a match made in Victorian literature. Ahem.

The first few months of our marriage were nice. Peaceful, quiet, normal, until that morning – the morning “Don” wasn’t waking up for church. He was going to be teaching, and I was supposed to lead worship, but I decided to let him rest a few more minutes since he obviously was tired. When I still couldn’t rouse him, I became worried. He seemed totally unresponsive. I remember sitting down next to him on the edge of the bed, my hand on his shoulder. “Don?” I asked with a gentle shake. Nothing. “Don?” A little louder, a little more urgent. Then, he awoke, but the man who lunged from the bed was no one I recognized.

He was raging, and I was dumbfounded, confused and silent, just watching at first, trying to wrap my head around what was happening in front of me. Words spewed from him like venom. Harsh, unfounded accusations, cruel curses, and anger. Still, the only thing I understood was that I needed to keep out of his way.

I watched what seemed like slow motion as he flew his fist against the hallway wall, leaving a crooked imprint. I remember thinking he seemed so calm and focused on his movements. Elbow back, fist tucked under chin, then a deep breath and BAM, another hit, this time splintering a hole in the coat closet door.

The energy rolled off of him, and he suddenly seemed exhausted. He walked to the bathroom and locked himself inside. Quiet.

I sat on the couch, feet tucked under my knees, nightgown pulled down tight, like a little girl watching a scary movie. The phone sat on the coffee table. I stared at it, weighing my options, my future. All I had to do was make one call. My brother would come and get me, and that would be that. But…

If I made that call, there would be no hope of saving my marriage. No hope of rescuing that happily ever after. My family would lock me in a closet before ever letting me come back, and there would be no vouching for “Don’s” safety. I am the baby of five, and let’s face it, big brothers are big brothers.

That’s when I heard him crying, from the other side of the bathroom door. Obviously, “Don” must be sick. He had never acted that way before. Maybe he needs some medicine, and some counseling. Something must be wrong, and it was my place to help him, wasn’t it?

And so it began. Friends, finding yourself in an emotionally abusive relationship is as easy as a Sunday morning gone wrong. If you find yourself in a situation where you need help, or you see that someone you love needs help, please, be brave. Make the call.

Love you, lovelies.


The Journey, December 1, 2013

The time…
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has come.

My diet survived Thanksgiving, I think.

I haven’t weighed over break, but I will be doing that tomorrow at work. My biggest worry is that I’ve gained, my biggest hope is that I’ve remained steady, and my biggest wish is that I’ve lost. Right now, I’m hoping for keeping steady :). Y

Regardless of the results of tomorrow’s weigh in, I have come to an unsettling realization of truth. Yes, I have been making more healthy eating decisions. Yes, I have been making progress, and I’ve lost 13 pounds. But, I know something is missing. I know that I need to once again take up exercise (insert noir film foreboding music – DOM, dom, DOOOOMMMMMM!).

I have mixed feelings about exercise. In the past, I have enjoyed it, and I have loathed it. It has served as both an escape and a punishment, and as leverage by a man who once swore an oath to love me and cherish me. At one point, I ran several miles a day, every day. Biked, hiked, and did ridiculously challenging (and effective) toning exercises, all in pursuit of that elusive carrot called “good enough.” Good enough to love, good enough to keep. Even though it’s been 7 years since that relationship dissolved, it is still a struggle to tune out his words. Yes, it was a very dark time in my life, but I always had hope. Sometimes I borrowed it from the few people who had an idea of what was going on. Sometimes I pulled it up from somewhere deep inside. Sometimes God poured it over me in the most unexpected ways.

So, today, as I look at my running shoes, mocking whispers from the past rise up, trying to tell me I’m a failure. Trying to tell my I’m not pretty. Trying to tell me I’ll never be “good enough.” And, do you know what I say to that? ENOUGH! I’ve always been enough of anything I’ve needed to be. I’ve worked hard, I’ve learned, I’ve grown, I’ve given, I’ve loved, I’ve hurt, and I’ve failed. But, I have NEVER GIVEN UP. I might have a soft voice, but in my heart of hearts, I am a fighter. I am stubborn, and when I’m broken, I am remade stronger than I was before. It might take me a while to heal. It might take me a while to tie up the laces. But I always have hope that I will, one day. And today, my friends, is one of my many, many “one days.”

If you are struggling with, well, ANYTHING. Know that your one day is coming, perhaps today. Hang in there, be strong, and have hope. Lace up those shoes, lovelies. ūüôā

A Few Words on Forgiveness

A number of years ago, I was given the opportunity to make a life or death decision. No, I didn’t find myself having to choose between the red wire and the blue wire – my choice was much more personal than that.

¬†I found myself in a parked vehicle with my (first) husband and a young woman whom I had considered to be one of my closest friends. They were confessing to me that they were “in love,” and even though they were married to other people, they felt that being with each other was the perfection of God’s word because they weren’t “in love” with their spouses. Obviously, they were deceiving themselves with a warped twisting of scripture in hopes of supporting their sin and in doing so, leaving behind a wake of¬†spiritual and emotional devastation in themselves and their families.¬†

Most of the details of that conversation have been lost to tears and time. I remember that I mainly listened. A prior relationship between them had been exposed some months in the past, but it had supposedly been brought to an end. As they told me that they just couldn’t walk away from one another, that it was destiny, that they were compelled to jump at what might be their last chance at “true happiness,” I remember feeling cold. Their words became distant as I focused on breathing. On surviving those next few moments of cruel reality. I went somewhere else in my mind and God showed me that I had two options. Time stopped, and I saw two futures for myself. I could choose bitterness and hate, or I could choose forgiveness and love. Whichever option I chose would not change the outcome of my husband’s and friend’s choices, but¬†it would determine my own future. It would set me on a path¬†to a living hell or a glorious hope. How I chose to survive this moment would determine whether I walked a path of life or of death.¬†

My words broke through the fog and the tears, ” I CHOOSE LOVE!” My husband and friend were startled. I had interrupted one of them — I don’t know which one.¬† I repeated my declaration over and over, convincing the darkness, convincing the universe, convincing myself.

I looked up, wiped my eyes with my sleeve and looked at these people whom I had loved, whom I had trusted, and I felt empty and full at the same time. Parts of myself had been ripped apart. They would eventually heal back together, but in a different, stronger configuration. I didn’t know that at the time, but a small part of me hoped that it would be so.

I had made my choice, and I was done with the conversation. They had made their choices also, and there was no point in exposing myself to more of their excuses. I asked my husband to take me home. The following few months before our divorce was finalized were filled with terrible, painful days. But, even in the midst of my desolation, God was working in my heart. He had planted that little seed of hope in the fertile soil of my choice to love. I knew that, even then, I was beginning to learn to forgive. I knew that I had to in order to survive. That, if I had any hope of being Marilyn again, whole and happy, I could not let bitterness take root in my soul.
I moved to the Pacific Northwest, and over time, the Lord blessed me with a new old love by reuniting me with my college sweetheart. We married and have a darling little boy. Time and circumstances eventually brought us back to Missouri, and I wondered if I would ever run into my first husband and my old friend.

To be honest, the idea filled me with dread. The idea frightened me because, for some reason (and if you’ve been divorced, you might recognize this feeling), even though I did nothing wrong, there is a shadow of shame that tries to attach itself to the one who was left behind, or rejected.

Quite a bit of time passed, and I began to think of the possibility less and less. Then, last weekend, I saw her. I was leaving the parking lot of the grocery store, and a couple was getting ready to enter the cross walk. They were holding hands. I didn’t recognize him, but her hair looked familiar, her stature, her posture. Then, she looked up and our eyes met. She had been smiling, but I watched her countenance change. That familiar shadow of shame was now covering her eyes, but she didn’t look away. She bravely stood there, seemingly submitting herself to my judgment. Then I felt it, a tugging from that other place inside myself. I had to choose, again. My heart answered before my mind really had a chance to think about it. I looked at her, threw out a casual wave, and smiled. Our eyes were still locked as I saw the shadow blow away, her face lit up with life, and I knew that God had just completed the work of forgiveness He had started in my heart so many years before.

Truly, words hold the power of life or death. Always choose life for yourself, and others, and you will find healing and peace. Forgiveness isn’t just an act intended to make ourselves feel better. It’s the breath of heaven that blows away the shadows of fear and shame, freeing us to walk in the light.