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Beautiful Marriage

On September 13th, my siblings and I celebrated our parents’ 50th wedding anniversary. During their lifetime, divorce has become relatively commonplace. Many people the age of my parents have divorced, so celebrating their accomplishment provided all of us with a sweet joy as we saw them act like newlyweds…giggling, laughing, getting ready, and gushing about how nice each other looked.

Seeing them interact with their friends and family and remembering the day gave us a glimpse into the love they have for one another. I think, as children, we sometimes only see the mundane living of life (plus the irritabilities and frustrations) and not the beauty of long-time love. We know that it wasn’t always easy, but we also know that time and time again, they persevered.

For me, it gave a little zing to my heart. I am 48 years old, and it would be a miracle that I have another that would last 50 years.

Earlier I used the words “accomplishment” and “persevered”…as if willpower is all that it takes to accomplish and persevere for a long marriage. Those words, while accurately describing my parents’ long marriage, could also be applied to my own marriage that ended in divorce.

Sometimes we use those particular words not realizing that they imply failure to those who do not achieve the same milestones.

I did achieve the longest marriage that I could. I did persevere in the face of difficulty. And I did choose to leave when my eyes were opened to the horrors hidden from me.

My parents’ long and beautiful marriage is just that. Long and beautiful.

My marriage was too long and too hard, and it was just that. Too long and too hard.

And I am ok with that.

There is joy for me, as well. I succeeded in getting out of an abusive, unfaithful marriage. I am thriving as I move forward with peace and joy.

Long marriages are beautiful, but it is also beautiful to witness someone step into a new life, away from something awful.

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Obesity Keeps Me Safe

This post is risky and hard to post, but I think it’s important.

In April 2014, I saw my doctor and told her that I was beginning to experience panic attacks. At the time, I honestly believed that I had no reason to be anxious. So she and I began to try medications to help prevent me from completely losing it.

Looking back, it seems as if it is a miracle that during that season I did not have a complete nervous breakdown. Here is what had been going on:

  • Code Red had been going on and off of medication for depression for years, and I never knew what kind of person would be walking into my home each evening…he might come in happy and hyper…OR he might come in on edge, ready to attack anyone who made the slightest noise…OR he would be so down and depressed that he would mope around talking about how “we never caught a break.” (That last bit was ridiculous. We had been blessed time and time again; he just couldn’t ever seem to see it.) And he was always, always drinking.
  • My oldest son was graduating from high school and seemed to be struggling against the world. Nothing I could do helped him find peace. My heart was sad, and I wasn’t sure if this was what normal growing pains felt like.
  • The herniated disc in my back had completely filled my spinal canal. I was in a ridiculous amount of pain most of the time.
  • Throughout the year, I think that between all 6 of us, there had been 4 or 5 surgeries.

After beginning the medication, I began seeing a counselor because I wanted to know how to best help my son. His high school years had been full of injuries, and he had not able to compete in athletics…and this son LOVES all things competitive. He was extremely depressed and I wondered if he was suicidal…how was I supposed to handle that? He had completely given up on academics (although he would get near-perfect scores on all exams), and he had turned down engineering school because he planned to join the Navy.

I was stressed, but I didn’t think that it was something that moms everywhere weren’t processing and walking through.

During the conversations with my therapist, small details began to come out about our family…and the more details that I shared, the more I began to shut down, and the more I shut down, the more I began to run through a drive-thru rather than cook a meal. (For those of you who know me well, this wasn’t normal. I love to cook. I love the details of putting together a detailed weekly menu, and I love to create enjoyable family meals.)

The pounds began to creep on. 5…10…40…80…100 all within an 8 month period of time, and I simply did not care. In fact, I tried to convince myself to care, but it didn’t work. The only time I even noticed the weight was when I had to dress to go somewhere.

I am pretty sure that the anxiety/depression meds were a bit too strong and created a numbing effect. I was simply grateful to have something to take away all of the stress that I had been feeling, and fast food was an easy provision.

Since 2015, I have fluctuated about 20 lbs but have remained significantly overweight…obese is the word that catches in my throat…never in my life have I been obese until this last season.

In 2018, during the bombshell of Code Red’s secret life, I decided to try a diet/lifestyle change with a dear friend. I failed. Time and time and time again. I set goals only to ignore them. I read information and absorbed it to the point that I know that I could teach someone exactly what to do to become healthy. I have spoken to my current counselor and we have worked through stuff.

But I have not been able to pull myself out of this strange pit.

In less than a month, I will be 48 years old. Just 5-1/2 years ago, I was 100 lbs lighter than I am right now.

What I have learned about myself is:

  • In 2014, I began to eat fast food as a “rebellion” against my family. If they weren’t going to have conversations and deal with stuff, I was not going to provide good, healthy meals for them…plus they like fast food, right?
  • In 2015-2017, I was heavily medicated/numbed. Mixing anxiety/depression meds with opioids and muscle relaxers prevented me from caring about anything. FYI-I did not struggle with addiction…my back pain was extreme. I am currently not on any medication.
  • In 2014-2018, I cooked enough to maintain appearances for outside people. This is weird, but even when I cooked for the family that lived with us after Hurricane Harvey, I felt as if it was keeping an appearance.
  • In 2015, I stopped wanting to be present for my then husband. I didn’t like going places with him only to be left by myself…and if I was overweight, he didn’t invite me. A win for me.
  • In 2018, my world collapsed. I simply survived that year. Fast food kept my kids fed without me having to think and prepare. I ate because it was there…I do not remember craving or enjoying food at all. That’s a lie…I did eat a lot of Captain Crunch…it’s strange how a childhood favorite brought comfort during that time. Food comfort is such a crazy thing…I don’t even like Captain Crunch now.
  • From 2019 – present, I now recognize that I provide fast food or poor food choices to prevent me from having hard conversations with my kids. Let me explain. Traditionally in our family, when fast food was purchased, we all went our separate ways to eat…never eating it as a family. If I cook, we eat as a family. If we eat as a family, we talk. And if we talk, I will begin to want to begin holding some accountability. I simply haven’t wanted to put in the effort. Yes, I know that isn’t emotionally healthy…

Do I eat too much? Yes, I love tacos and candy and soda and all things bad for the body. Not to mention that when you eat fast food nearly every single day, sometimes twice a day, you don’t have to eat astronomical amounts of food…you will put on significant weight without eating all day, every day.

So now that I know the root of what has happened, what am I going to do about it?

I honestly do not know.

There is one more roadblock to overcome. There is the dilemma of losing weight and becoming more attractive. As arrogant as this sounds, I know that when I am even somewhat fit, I am attractive. And if I am attractive, someone might show interest in me. And if someone shows interest in me, what in the world would I do? I don’t know how to determine who to trust. It is probably better for me to avoid that possibility altogether.

As crazy as this sounds, until I find my voice, obesity keeps me safe.

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Code Red Comes Out… Clarification Edit

I published the post, “Code Red Comes Out,” yesterday morning, and then I panicked.

So I deleted it…

Something that I’ve learned throughout the last 2-1/2 years is how difficult it is to maintain boundaries even after leaving an abusive relationship. Oftentimes, I cannot communicate in the manner in which I typically do.

I have trained myself to soften many things that come from my mouth…but in doing that, my words lose their meaning. It’s as if what I am attempting to say are not even understandable.

In that post, I wanted him to fully grasp that being gay was the minor issue in our marriage. The primary issue was his abuse.

But being gay WAS his primary issue in our marriage.

Make sense? I’m republishing it…sorry to those of you who subscribe for getting it twice…this is still a little bit sensitive for me.

So. My ex-husband, Code Red, officially came out to me last Sunday.

It made my week a bit emotional. Having him finally put what I already knew into words was surreal. (I hate that overused word…but it’s accurate.)

Last Sunday, I received a email from Code Red. It was actually a very kind letter telling me the one thing (he refers to it as “the lie”)he wished that he could have told me so long ago. As I read it, I grieved. I grieved for the life that he lost. I grieved the life that I lost. I grieved the life that we led, because it really wasn’t a very good life for either one of us.

In response, I offered to send him a response telling him how his lie impacted the kids and me throughout the years. Honestly, it was some of the most genuine interaction I feel that we have ever had.

Here is an edited version…all quotes are paraphrased: (Code Red – Bold, Me – Italics)

“Here is something I should have told you and others a long time ago.” Lumping me in with others is offensive. I was your wife. I fully trusted you…even when my instincts told me otherwise.

 “I am gay.  That’s the easiest way to put it.  I’m at peace with that fact, finally.  I’m at peace with how I was made.” For this, I am genuinely glad for you.

I do hate the pain that my choices and actions caused.” Let’s name them so that they aren’t minimized.**I listed 31 occurrences for him to consider. In regard of the sanctity I still value in marriage (even a bad one), I won’t expose all of them here. I have touched on them at times, but I won’t share these deeply personal things.

**The knowledge of your gay affairs opened a clear path to safety for the kids and me.”

“I do not regret our marriage. I did my best.” There are only 2 benefits from our marriage: 1) Our children 2) It strengthened me to a point that I did not think was possible.

“I still have love for you, but I know we probably cannot have a friendship.” Honestly, I no longer feel any love for you. I have come to accept that I haven’t loved you for a great many years. The feeling that I mistook for love was really fear. **Fear that you instilled in me with careful manipulation and rage. I have no desire to be friends with you. You are not the kind of person that I want to have in my life.

Because you have been separated from us, you are able to romanticize the truth, making it easy for you to create your own personal narrative. I, on the other hand, have been face to face not only with the damage you did to my heart, but also with the damage you did to our children. Every single day, I see the effects your decisions had on them. No amount of romanticizing will create a better truth for them.

  • When we lived in Louisiana, I thought we struggled because it was the early years of marriage.
  • When we lived in Indiana, I thought we struggled because you had so much work to do with school.
  • When we lived in Alabama, I thought we struggled because you hated your job.
  • When we lived in Virginia, I thought that we struggled because of your many jobs.
  • When we lived in Arkansas, I thought that we struggled because of homeschooling.
  • When we moved to Texas, I thought we struggled because I moved forward in my walk with God, and you abandoned yours.

I wanted to leave you so many times, but I did not realize that I despised you until we lived in Arkansas. I didn’t think that I had a good reason to divorce back then…I didn’t even think that I had a choice. I thought that I had to just power through. After all, I knew you “loved” me, even though it didn’t feel like love. Throughout the 26 years, I have cried so many tears for the unknown. I had no idea what was wrong with our marriage, but I knew that something was not right. The best part of this whole situation is that I now know how strong and resilient I am.

Poem about his wedding ring

With my social work knowledge, I applaud your efforts to dig deep and pull this poem out of the grief. But I was your wife, and I know that this poem only touches one aspect of our lives. It’s as if this knowledge absolves you from the horrific life the kids and I endured at your hand.

  • You need to know that I do not feel the same as you. As you have sentimentalized the story of being gay, I have come to accept the depths of abuse the kids and I suffered.
  • The laughter and joy were not real, Code Red. They were coping mechanisms used to make it through each day. My humor is not your humor.
  • The friendship was also an illusion. When I think back, I am able to recognize my own desire to get away from the rural country life…something that drove me into a relationship with a person that treated me inconsistently even as a friend before our marriage.
  • The love from me to you was a commitment. The depth of my love was an illusion I created to be able to bear the burdens you placed on me. I literally rehearsed it so that no one would know how much I despised you. I wanted them to think that I held you in high regard…I did not want to be known as the complaining wife. I worked so hard at it that I even convinced myself…until I recall that I regularly told God, “It will be okay if Code Red dies today. The kids and I will manage just fine.” That wasn’t okay, Code Red. I should’ve known that having thoughts like that meant that something was very, very wrong.

I wish you well in your new life, but I do not want to be a part of it. There cannot be mutual respect. I have no desire to be friends with a man that harms his wife and children.

I plan to spend the rest of my life helping women and children overcome the trauma of abuse.

And that is the end of our exchange. I’ve read it and reread it so many times this last week. To be able to finally share my voice to him about how his behaviors impacted me has been such an empowering feeling. His words, and then my words, weren’t exchanged in anger. They were shared in a manner that creates closure. It’s as if each word is flying from my hand into the sky, never to return.

For this, I am grateful.

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Crisis? of Faith

For as long as I can remember, I have struggled against the Christian beliefs of my friends and family. I have rarely felt as if I truly understood or was understood when discussing Scripture.

It has been a long-time joke among my friends that I am the “wrestler.” I will wrestle for years over what something means and how I should live out my life. Many times, this has left me a bit insecure and uncertain as to whom I can trust to converse with about these things.

However, I have never once strayed from my belief that Jesus is real and that God is truly for me and every other person on this earth.

What that looks like to others, I do not know.

I refuse to argue my core beliefs. As for many things, I honestly am not willing to waste my time in aggressive disagreement. If you would like to discuss/debate it, I am more than happy to engage, but the moment one of us creates a line in the sand (with anything other than my firm belief that Jesus is the Son of God and the only way to God is through Him), I’m out. I believe that if we aren’t willing to listen and change, we lose all of our credibility as Christians.

To the depths of my soul I believe that God loves EVERY.SINGLE.PERSON.

As I have observed people these last few months, I have been shaken by what I’ve seen. Lines in the sand are regularly being drawn, and it grieves my heart to see the losses that are occurring. If I am to be completely transparent, I have been tempted to draw some lines of my own…and I hate that about myself.

During this season, I haven’t known how to walk out my faith. I do not want to lose people I love, and I do not want to make allowances for things that appall me.

  • How on earth do I navigate my personal Christian faith walk among the issues running rampant throughout our country these days?
  • How do I pray?
  • How do I remain true to God’s word among the many voices shouting?

Since I have been struggling a bit, I wondered if others might be as well? So I decided to share what I’ve been doing to help keep me grounded.

As someone who came from the Charismatic “movings” of the Holy Spirit, someone who believed that if she simply prayed and had enough faith certain things would center and become right and good, I am now a woman who believes that simple practices of faith are grounding, create steadfastness, while also creating safe spaces within the volatile Christian community.

  • It began with the simple practice of reading a Proverb each day. No prayer, other than “God, You know my heart. I do not have the words.”
  • I then added The Book of Common Prayer. Meditating on the words set before me each morning, noon, and night have given me focus.
  • The Apostles Creed – repetition and grounding.
  • And my latest (in the words of the creator, Aaron Niequist) “A New Liturgy No 8: The Lord’s Prayer is a 25 minute guided journey, line by line, through the Lord’s Prayer. It’s designed to help people create holy space every day by entering deeply and creatively into this historic prayer. And not “holy space” to escape the world…but to get free enough to engage the world with courage and compassion.”

I do not share all of my practices to try and convince you of any one right way of doing things. These are my practices that have helped to guide me through a borderline crisis of faith. Not my faith in God, but my faith in humankind.

Your journey is your journey and I do not assume that I know best. I do; however, know that when we share our journeys, there are moments when our hearts and minds connect to encourage one another. That alone is my hope today.

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Frustrated Kids + Self-Reflection = Change

My kids (the 3 that live with me) have been frustrated with me.

I am guilty of saying, “Your dad loves you the best way that he knows how.”

In saying that, I have undermined their feelings. I have inadvertently been telling them that they have to accept his love…even if it hasn’t felt like love.

It is so ingrained in my head that ALL parents (to the best of their abilities) love their children. Maybe that’s true. But just because they love their children, it doesn’t make reality any different.

Love is not enough. It is time we stop forcing our kids to accept love that hurts or makes them feel bad.

It’s not just me that has fallen into the trap of believing this ridiculousness. Just last week, I listened to a friend excuse her mother’s actions because, “You know mom. She’s just like that.” This friend is just like me, brainwashed into believing that a parent is excused from reality because of love.

Bullshit. What even is this kind of love?

As adults, when we acquiesce to a toxic parent, we are letting them know that their behavior is ok. They never feel the consequences of their actions because as young children, we are taught to overlook and ignore how we feel because of duty or “respect.”

Making older adults feel good was more important than our, or our children’s, pain.

For years, I forced my children to overlook a certain family member’s behavior. My children would come to me hurt and angry, and instead of acknowledging and understanding, I expected them to dismiss their feelings because that person was older.

  • Older = respect.
  • Older = deference.
  • Older = no accountability.

I was wrong. I ignored my children and trained them to be accepting of abuse.

And I have been doing the same when it comes to their father.

It doesn’t matter if their father loves them. He has harmed them. He has put conditions on his love for them. He has abandoned them. He has been cruel to them. He has minimized his wrong, and he has not apologized to them.

By the way, this is not a beat up Code Red post. This is a reality check for myself.

In the training of my children, I have been complicit with abuse. For years, I continued to place my children in harms way. I cannot undo my actions, and for that, I am very, very sad.

I have decided to turn my sadness into advocacy and education.

Here is what I can do:

  • I can apologize.
  • I can model what it is like to learn something new.
  • I can change.
  • I can listen and actually hear.
  • I can come alongside my children and others.
  • I can stand up for mistreatment.
  • I can carry it forward by educating others.

Looking inward to see truth is one of the most difficult, yet rewarding things I can do, both for myself and for my kids.

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Gay for Pay

For the most part, the lives of my kids and I are pretty peaceful these days. Occasionally, something will come up (like Father’s Day), and our discussions will reference our past. Still, as a general rule, we are all moving forward. I have been divorced 18 months now, separated for 28 months…many of the emotions have settled.

But something happened a month ago that bothered me, and then this other thing popped up last weekend. So if you will indulge me, I am going to process it here.

Five weeks ago, Code Red came to visit our youngest child. He had not seen him since February due to COVID-19, and honestly, I felt pretty good about this visit. I continue to hope that Code Red will figure out how to love them the way that they long to be loved. But then my son left his glasses in Code Red’s rental car. Not a big deal, just something that a phone call and a stop-by should fix.

BUT. When Code Red came by early the next morning to deliver the glasses, he had a young man (about the age of our older sons–22-24) in the car with him. That would have automatically be suspicious given Code Red’s preferences. However, it would have been less suspicious had the young man not been lying back in the car seat, attempting to not be seen. My youngest nervously came back into the house, bouncing from foot to foot, telling me how uncomfortable it was.

If any of you are single parents, here is a bit of advice. Just introduce the person with you. I honestly believe that had Code Red introduced the two, a bit of trust could have been established. Our son might not have liked the situation, but it would have made the interaction upfront and honest. But Code Red didn’t do that.

Fast forward to last Sunday. One of my children was checking their Venmo account balance, and when they clicked on the app, they saw this: “Code Red paid _______. Gay for pay.”

Right there for the world to see.

These kinds of things continue to occur and affect my children. I cannot protect them from this happening. Their father does not appear to care what they see or think.

I have divorced him. He is free to live the LGBT life that he must have always wanted. And I am free from him.

The children did not divorce him. Outwardly, they do not want anything to do with him, but I have to wonder if deep down inside, they long for a loving father.

I have to accept that my role is to love my children well and to ask God to lead me in each and every step of this journey.

Biggest Blessing=Biggest Regret

My biggest blessing is also my biggest regret.

The inner conflict of my life these days leaves me in a near-constant state of frustration. It has now been two years since I moved from my home. As messy as that home was, there was financial security there. Two years out, and I am feeling both elated and terrified every single day.

The biggest blessing of my life has been that I was able to stay at home with my children. There were moments when it was too much, but overall, I genuinely love/d being an active mom in their lives.

The biggest regret of my life has been that I did not establish a career. I often wanted one, but I could not figure out how to balance that as an involved mom with a spouse that was gone as much or more than he was at home.

I actually remember thinking that after we moved to Alabama, I would be able to go back to school and further my education. And then we moved to Virginia. I didn’t give up hope; I looked at classes and made plans to go back to school. And then we moved to Arkansas. That first year, I clung to my hope…if I could go back before I turned 35, it wouldn’t be too late. But I began homeschooling and had another baby, and before long we moved to Texas. My hopes shifted. Maybe after the kids began moving away, I would just take a few classes? Not for a full degree but something just for me.

And then my world cracked open. Sometimes I see that crack as bad (like falling into an abyss), and sometimes I see that crack as good (my eyes and my world being opened up).

Right now, my world is wide open, but I am also scared out of my mind. I am in graduate school doing what I love, but I had hoped to have full-time employment to balance out my expenses. I never dreamed how difficult it would be to find a decent job. Nor did I ever consider that the father of my children wouldn’t be helping them out with college expenses.

I currently feel frustrated and embarrassed. I am ashamed that I cannot find a job. What is wrong with me? Even the career counselor at the university said that I had a pretty good resume’ considering how many years I stayed at home…

Oh, I know nothing is wrong with me. I also know that we are in the middle of a pandemic. But I am discouraged and annoyed that I did not begin my career path before the age of 47.

It is frustrating and lonely to live with this deep, personal conflict in a season fraught with so much external conflict. Heaven knows that I don’t want to talk about it anymore. To outside people, it’s beginning to look as if I am not even searching. Each application, cover letter, and resume’ needs filling out, written, and tweaked, and that takes roughly an hour or two for every single one of them. They are mentally exhausting, and sometimes I apply to so many in a day that I live in fear that I have attached the wrong cover letter to an application.

All of this makes me want to dwell in a state of regret…but how can I possibly regret my life?! I made cookies and birthday cakes, went to parks, read books, had parties, and put my children to bed every night. I LOVE being a mom.

How is it possible that my biggest regret can also be the most wonderful blessing I have ever received?

A Daughter’s Grief

I woke and heard the sound of her tears. It was Tuesday morning and she had received an email from her father. Everyone’s investments were losing money and he told her to leave it be until after the coronavirus pandemic had passed.

Except she could not do that. She relies on that money to pay her rent as she goes to college. And that money was disappearing.

This scenario sounds like a loving father, giving wise advice to his child. Unfortunately, the way it sounds and its reality are two different things.

You see, my daughter continues to be ravished by the grief and rejection of her father. She doesn’t know this for certain, but it appears that he blames her for the loss of his family. And that simply isn’t true.

On Father’s Day, 2017, my sweet girl posted a photo of she and her dad on instagram. Later that day, a friend from the area reached out and sent her screenshots of her father on Grindr, a gay “hook-up” app. In a moment of time, my daughter’s world collapsed. And she didn’t have time to process it. She was leaving the next day to do mission work and then work at a summer camp…without regular access to phones and computers.

Fast forward to the whirlwind of August 2017. The beginning of her senior year of high school. Two weeks later, the destruction of Hurricane Harvey hitting our city. A family of 5, plus their fur-babies moving in with us for 2 months. Her father’s loss of a job. Her life was overwhelming. On the outside she continued to smile and laugh and pretend as if she had never heard that shocking information back in June.

Pretend would be the key word. Behind all of her smiles and laughter, she was investigating and searching for the truth. And she found it…and held onto it for several months.

(Oh, my word. My heart aches as I write this.)

Fast forward to February 4, 2018. Her father had been out of work for just over 3 months. I had been cooking for people to have some cash coming into the home. One of her older brothers had just moved back home. And she had just completed her very last high school musical.

Combined with the weariness of working nonstop for weeks on the musical and a verbal attack from her father, emotionally she collapsed. She could not keep his secret any longer. She decided to curl up into my arms and tell me what she had learned.

While I have vivid memories of that evening, I honestly do not know what she felt after telling me. I can only hope that she felt a small bit of relief, because our nightmare was just beginning. Neither she, nor I, had any idea of the information that would change the course of our lives forever.

Let me go back in time and tell you about her relationship with her dad. Some of her first words were, “I’m Daddy’s Princess.” Early in her life, he openly favored her. He would spend time brushing her hair. He would take her on Daddy-Daughter dates. They had a saying, “Daddy-Daughter Power-DDP.” My friends thought that he had an unnatural fixation on her. I thought it was cute and didn’t listen to them. I have no idea how to decipher all of that now?

After she told me what her friend had shared, I began to question and grieve as more and more knowledge about my husband’s secret life came to life.

And then, one fateful day, a “knowing” shook my core. When I pushed for clarity and received it, the information was far worse that I could have ever imagined. The natural protective nature of a mother for her child kicked in, and I could only think about protecting my daughter. If only I could spare her from learning this…

I couldn’t. I tried. If she learned of this, I did not know if she would survive it. I honestly did not know what this would do to her. I even attempted to save just a tiny part of the relationship with her dad, by encouraging him to speak to her. Unfortunately, his shame was so great that he could not face her.

Regrettably, it was taken out of my hands, and I could not protect her from it. Someone from school found out and told her that her father had had relations with her very best friend. A young man that she trusted more than she trusted her brothers. A young man that had been her friend since she was 11 years old. A young man that had been in our home.

Our family had been destroyed. But now, her whole world was destroyed.

Father’s Day is awful for my children. It is a terrible reminder of abuse and indifference.

Please pray for my children today. Their hearts hurt.

Listen, Learn, and Honor

Since 1994, I have lived in 6 states and have experienced many transitions of my thought patterns. I grew up in a conservative, small community where most people have similar thoughts and opinions. In my family, as long as you worked hard, you were considered “good people”…color was a description and did not seem to matter. Work hard and be good people.

I do not remember not having black people around. (I would use the term people of color, but the reality is that black people were the only people of color I knew.) My rural classroom was a mixture of black and white children, although probably predominantly white. My teachers were both black and white; I do not remember race being an issue. As I think back, Ms. Butler, a black first-grade teacher, seemed like a grandmother waiting to love on every child that walked into her classroom. I do remember that it seemed as if my black elementary teachers held us to a higher standard of excellence. The teaching of the “whole” child (emotional, intellectual, and physical) seemed extremely important and different from what I experienced with my white teachers.

I admit to being an oblivious child. I tended to disappear into a private world of my own. Watching other children and sensing their needs seemed to be what I was most aware of. The big picture of what might have been going on around me never seemed to enter my consciousness. I was too worried about the girl standing on the sidewalk because no one was playing with her, the girl being teased because she was much taller than everyone else, or the kids who were fighting (Yes, I was a tattletale. I hated to think that someone might be hurt.). On my school bus, I loved Tyrone, who could spin a basketball on his fingers. And Fletcher, who bought me candy whenever I could find 15¢ for him to spend. Yes, I saw the color of their skin, but the only thing that mattered to me was that they were kind.

And then, two incidents occurred that forced me to realize that not everyone else saw the world as I did. When I was in 6th grade, my friend called another friend a “half-breed” and “n****r” and beat him up. Later, an older lady saw a young black girl walking into an unlikely place for her to be. The older lady became flustered and asked me, “Why would that ‘n****r’ girl be going in there?” When I answered, “Because she is friends with ____,” she became angry and told me that she needed to make some phone calls, and I needed to go home.

Until then, I didn’t understand that the color of skin was an issue. I only knew that it was different.

Fast forward through the years, and I have had white friends, black friends, Asian friends, etc., but I never understood that their lives were significantly different from my own. I honestly believed that the only differences in our lives were cultural.

Honestly, the opening up of my mind took a lot of personal work. It is a fact that I struggled to listen and hear what I was being told. It threatened my equilibrium and was more than my ridiculously sensitive heart could bear. It took time for the shock to wear off, and the knowledge to sink into my soul. Here is my journey:

Shortly after the issue about Paula Deen came out, I went to Savannah and met with an old friend. While we were walking around town, I referred to Paula Deen’s restaurant. My dear friend (who is black) quietly said, “It is such a shame that she did those things.” While I agreed it was a shame, how my friend spoke made me pause. I wanted to talk about it, but I didn’t even know what kind of question to ask. I knew that this was a friend I trusted through and through, and if she felt something, it was worth pursuing information.

What on earth do I not know? What am I missing or not understanding? Although I did not know what I needed to learn, I knew there was something I desperately needed to hear. (While many things have occurred in recent years, these are the events that forced me to pay attention.)

  • The shooting of Michael Brown occurred, and the riots in Ferguson, MO, took over the news. I began to listen to a Bible study friend because she was from Ferguson. She was level-headed and peaceful, not someone looking to launch an argument.
  • Be the Bridge was introduced through a conference, and I immediately felt a need to become a part of it. I began to read online to hear how to learn what I did not know.
  • At one point, I felt the strong urge to pray for the son of my Bible study friend. I texted to tell her how I felt an urgency to pray. Her response was so heartfelt and profoundly moving that I began to question even more. I continued to NOT get it.
  • Colin Kaepernick’s kneeling came into our world. I won’t lie and say that I understood his reasoning or even cared to understand it. All I knew was that this man was kneeling during the national anthem, and you do not do that. It was clear to me. You stand up. Period. What on earth was happening?
  • The film “13th” released on Netflix. First, I watched it with a small group of people. I was appalled at what I saw, but I believed that if I loved people one by one, I could make a difference by modeling what it was like to accept people, no matter their race. It did not click with me that I should be talking about what I was learning.
  • I watched “13th” a second time with a larger group of people, and quite honestly, I embarrassed myself. I now choose not to view this event as embarrassing; I now see it as my turning point. My thoughts on Colin Kaepernick changed from outrage to understanding.
  • My first Be the Bridge group began, and my life was forever changed. Intimate discussions. Reading books that would have never garnered my attention in the past. Meeting, listening, and processing with women who would forgive me when I said something insensitive. I learned so much. More listening. Less talking.
  • My life fell apart, and I clung to the strength of the black women I had met. Their strength and resilience was something I longed for in myself. I held their stories close to my heart, and I regularly thought that if these women can make it through so much and stand with dignity and worth, so can I.

Fast forward to present-day United States. Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, and George Floyd. The effects of these deaths have catapulted Americans into a frenzied state. Some people just want to ignore the “mess” of it all and wait for things to go back to normal. Some people want to attack anything that disrupts their traditional beliefs. Some people want acknowledgement, justice, and reform.

Maybe I’m a religious crazy, but I believe that God has prepared me for this time. He provided me with learning opportunities ahead of this time in history so that I could share what I’ve learned with love. I take the command to “Love your neighbor as yourself” literally.

  • I MUST speak out when there are injustices.
  • I MUST stand strong when people are treated poorly.
  • I MUST listen and learn, because another person’s perspective is just as critical as my own.
  • I MUST challenge those who voice disdain to the ones publicly grieving and calling for change.

This has been my journey. Your journey may look a bit different. One thing is for sure; I encourage you to listen, learn, and honor.

Wobbly. Stumbly. Steps.

It is awful to feel like a young-adult-starting-out when you are an older-adult-with-almost-grown-children. I am 47-years-old and attempting to begin a career that has to provide me with enough income to prepare for retirement while at the same time, immediately provide for the kids and me.

To be honest, I fully realize that I lived a pretty privileged life. Just over two years ago, I had a big house with a pool, cars, a boat, not to mention a pretty fluffy monthly budget. We had investments, retirement, and a bit of savings.

When I made the decision to divorce, we had already willingly depleted most of our investments, retirement and savings. In the months prior to filing, I had chosen to stand beside the man I believed in through the end of a tumultuous season with his last employer, including a major lawsuit. (By the way, it has now been 2-1/2 years since that lawsuit began, and it is still in process!)

I can do without “things;” I’m not so high maintenance as that. The issue for me is that I have a difficult time not being able to support my kids in the manner I had thought would happen. As 2 of them transition to adulthood, I currently provide them with housing, food and basic necessities. They are working, accepting grants and getting loans to go to school. I am in school. My youngest is still in high school.

Life is so incredibly different!

Above were my thoughts BEFORE Covid-19

After/During Covid-19…

I am in the process of transitioning from full-time student to part-time student as I also search for full-time employment. I haven’t worked a regular, 40-hour-a-week job in 24 years. And I have NEVER had to financially support myself!

I want to climb in bed and quit…not really, but…sort-of. With each new twist or turn in this journey forward, I have to consciously refocus and remember God’s wisdom:

“Let your eyes look directly ahead, and let your gaze be fixed straight in front of you. Watch the path of your feet, and all your ways will be established. Do not turn to the right nor to the left; turn your foot from evil.” Proverbs 4:25-27 (NASB)

Keep looking ahead. Don’t look down. Don’t look to the side. Definitely don’t look back.

Look forward. Take a step. Just one step forward makes a difference.

Wobbly. Stumbly. Steps.

That’s all that is required.

I can do this.