An honor

Meghan, over at “Finding Hope’s Sunshine”, gifted me with the honor of featuring my story on her blog.

The link is below, and is my story of Domestic Violence that I endured in my first marriage.

http://findinghopessunshine.wordpress.com/2014/11/20/abused-women-gracie/

I spent many years cowering in fear, almost a decade of silence.

My kind, patient James has walked beside me in my journey to find my voice and my courage.

He recently summed it up perfectly by saying, “Gracie, you’ve moved from being a victim of Domestic Violence to being a Victor over what you survived.”

May we all find our voice.

May every victim become a victor!

Love ,

Gracie

Wildflower Tenacity (c)Gracie K. Harold 2014

Wildflower Tenacity (c)Gracie K. Harold 2014

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The Kindness of an Atheist

friend (c)Gracie K Harold 2014

friend (c)Gracie K Harold 2014

**Please note that this post is about FRIENDSHIP and the kindness of an atheist and is NOT about dating an atheist…that’s a post for another day.**

I was still getting moved into our new apartment when I received the phone call that started our friendship.  I had been in a shelter for Domestic Violence survivors for the last few months, and my children were four, two and a half, and eight months old.  The conversation flowed easily on a variety of topics.  Although the call originated as a business call, it wasn’t long before we considered ourselves friends.  He was an adamant atheist and a devout environmentalist, I was just as adamantly a Theist. One of our first conversations consisted of the following debates:

Me: How can you be an environmentalist but not a creationist? What’s the point if you’re an atheist?

Him: How can you consider yourself a creationist if you care nothing about the environment? What’s the point?

He was right. I told him so, and apologized.  I started recycling more, and trying to consume less.  I became aware of my wasted energy and cut back on my carbon footprint.  Our lively discussions continued, and his friendship filled an emptiness inside of me.  I was so lonely.

I was attending every women’s Bible Study that was offered at my church.  I attended morning church, evening church and Sunday School.  I had good friends who intentionally had the kids and I over, or who cut our hair, or even watched the kids so I could escape for coffee…but I lacked a best friend.

Still reeling from the chronic abuse that I had endured for five years at the hands of what I call a “biblical psychopath” ( a man who had a degree in Theology but was mentally disturbed and abusive); I longed to connect with someone who I could debate and discuss life with.  My best friend from college lived in Indiana, and we made every effort to talk, but my heart ached for local companionship.  I longed to be listened to, appreciated as a wise woman, and have someone laugh at my jokes.  He did.

Before the inevitable judgments begin racing in your brain and start being slung into my comments section like stones in a stoning; know that I took faltering steps in courage to reach out for friendship at church with the young adults.  I soon discovered the “ooh and ahh” reality that exists when a single mom appears on the neat and tidy “Christian scene”.  Guys tended to either respond with (a sometimes literal) running to the hills as they seemed to scream, “Ahh….she’s a single mom!  I wonder if it’s contagious!” or they would seem to be purring, “Ooh…a single mom who obviously had sex…I wonder how long she’s gone…”  It’s vulgar but true.  Most of the young adult girls would literally (and possessively) grab the arm(s) of the closest guy(s) and plaster a “perma-grin” on their face, without ever making a real effort to know me.

From the church, I learned the conflicted dance of religious grace.  I received both patronizing glances and genuine compassion.  I received outpourings of financial assistance and gifts and food; along with slammed doors, condemnation, and hurtful, ignorant comments.  I often felt like the anomaly kept in the China hutch for certain guests to see on special occasions. “Oh, that’s our single mom…she has had it rough…whisper whisper whisper (gasp).  She is quite a dear, though…and we all do what we can to help her.  It’s so sad, isn’t it? (sigh)”

From my atheist friend, I learned that I had a voice, intelligence, and a good sense of humor.  I learned that real men see the beauty inside a woman…not that her appearance isn’t important; but a funny, witty, kind, intelligent woman has a lot to offer the world for it’s betterment.  He taught me how to navigate around and through red tape, while empowering me to learn how and when to cut through it.

He taught me that attractiveness is multifaceted.  Through our friendship, I relearned my confidence.  I found a safe place to vent and cry and grieve.  I was challenged to sidestep the very things that had tripped up and entangled my loved ones. I learned that even after one or both of us was a jerk to the other, our friendship continued.  I learned that my ex-husband was indeed an “Insert-expletive-of-your-choice-here”.

The kindness of an atheist is what prepared me for my dating relationships that eventually followed, and also for my marriage.

You read that correctly.

The kindness of an atheist prepared me for my marriage to my Jesus-loving, Bible-College-attending, Shepherd-hearted Man that is my best friend, lover, and husband.  My James challenges me, understands me, hugs me, loves me, fails me, apologizes to me, romances me, and encourages me to be more like Christ.  I love my James.  I thank God for him every night and every morning.  I do.

I like to think that in His Kindness, God saw my loneliness, and he heard the cry of my heart for a deep, visceral connection.  My atheist friend stepped up when no one else dared to.  My husband eventually entered my life, and took it from there.  I thank God for both of them.  Whether you like it or not, I tend to think that both offered a beautiful sacrifice of worship.  The first one had a heart stirred to compassion by an inexplicable desire to make a difference.  The second had the same compassionate heart, stirred to draw me in with loving kindness, as he committed to continue on loving me for life.

My belief is that God smiles on both of them.  Both of them showed me the heart of God, whether or not they were aware of it.  The kindness of an atheist drew me into the intimacy of a forever marriage with the man who chooses every morning to simply love me as God has loved him.

Please do not misunderstand; my heart is only fully devoted to my husband James.  I am my beloved’s and he is mine.  In looking back over the last decade of my life, though; I have realized that my Atheist friend was like one who tills the soil on a farm.  His
kindness prepared me for God’s goodness, and stopped me from running away from the thing I so desperately needed but was too terrified to be vulnerably available for.

I like to think that when James stepped in, he took the plow, and began to sow seeds of kindness and love in such an overwhelmingly tender way, that I couldn’t help but allow him past all of my defense mechanisms.  God be praised for seeing my heartache.  Where a Christian man wasn’t willing to courageously walk beside me, an atheist was moved to compassion for that season of preparation.  When the time was right, James entered my life and opened my eyes to what true Biblical love means, accompanied by an everlasting commitment to me as his wife.

If your heart is shattered as mine was, and you are terrified of allowing people past your defense mechanisms, may a Godly person have the courage to walk beside you.  If they fail or refuse, may you have the kindness of an atheist as a preparation for God’s overwhelming goodness and love.  Heal well. Rest well.  Commit yourself to your faithful Creator…and continue to do good.  (I Pet. 4:19)

If you are in any way aware of a hurting soul, in God’s name, gently and courageously reach out to them time and again in love!

Love and kindness,

Gracie

Abuse

"You keep track of all my sorrows. You have collected all my tears in your bottle. You have recorded each one in your book." Psalm 56:8 (NLT)  Photo (c)Gracie K. Harold 2014

“You keep track of all my sorrows. You have collected all my tears in your bottle. You have recorded each one in your book.” Psalm 56:8 (NLT) Photo (c)Gracie K. Harold 2014

The following was posted in my comments recently, after I shared a brilliant post that I had read about Domestic Violence and Abuse.  I feel compelled to share the comments and the links again; as I feel so strongly today that our story needs to be told for others on their journey.

If you or someone you know is suffering Domestic Violence and/or abuse, You are NOT alone!  Please get help!  Please find hope.  You deserve help.

National Domestic Violence Hotline 1 800 799 7233

“Dear Dani,

This post that I re blogged was originally shared by my “sister-in-courage” on her blog “begin to believe”.

I also survived 5 years of Domestic Violence. The most comprehensive chronicle of what I survived is found in my post, “Unflinching and Unveiled”, (It’s very candid, reader beware) it’s found here: https://adjustmentstonormal.wordpress.com/2014/06/30/unflinching-and-unveiled/

A gentler explanation of our journey is found in my sneak peak of my book chapter, used by permission. “Lilacs & Shackles, sneak preview” here:

https://adjustmentstonormal.wordpress.com/2014/07/25/lilacs-shackles/

I was scarred for many years. During that time, Jesus so tenderly loved me and gently walked alongside of us on our journey. I wish I could say that “I gave it to God and now I’m fine.” I HAVE given the years of abuse over to God, sometimes multiple times an hour. I’m not always fine. I have learned that that is okay. Instead of desiring “Christian denial” and pretending that nothing ever happened, I have learned the immense amount of courage and freedom that is found when I speak the truth in love. I, Gracie K. Harold, survived abuse.

I did not deserve it; no one EVER deserves abuse! Being abused does not diminish the facts that God is a good and loving Father who loves me, and even though I still sometimes see the scars that the horrific abuse left behind; I am learning to see that they are truly lines left behind when the Artist took my broken pieces and made me into a new creation; His beloved daughter. I have also finally had my heart enlarged enough to stop being consumed by the hurt, pain and abuse; and instead, to fix my eyes on the Everlasting Father who loves me so much that His son was with me every step of the way. The hardest wrestling match for me spiritually came when I finally accepted that I was NOT abandoned during the abuse. Instead, I believe that He held me as the abuse went on, and whispered, “I am so sorry that this is happening! This is NOT my will, and I will never treat you this way! I love you, and I am here!”

I came to see it as a caregiver who is outside with a child that gets unexpectedly hit by a soccer ball which a neighbor kicked at the child. The caregiver has no desire for the child to get hurt, and yet sometimes other people’s choices result in our pain. The caregiver rushes to the side of the child, reassuring them and seeking medical attention if necessary. The point is, the child is not alone as they heal.

Neither was I. It is one of the hardest paradoxes in God’s love to understand; yet His fingerprints are seen everywhere in our journey. I can’t always see Him, and I don’t always like the way things go, but I know that He is here and He loves me. I have learned to focus on that as I unflinchingly face my scars, knowing that I am dearly beloved.

Thank you for your encouragement and sharing your heart, Dani. The way that you have journeyed alongside me in the world of blogging has spurred me onward in my courage to speak and no longer be silenced.

Love, Gracie K.”

Why I Stayed/ Why I Left

This post eloquently captures the journey. #NoMore.org http://www.aplaceforwomen.org

prayer & practice

To be abused dehumanizes. You won’t know its happening but it slowly takes away your sense of self worth, power and control. If he doesn’t kill you, one day, if you’re ready and only if you’re ready, a spark of light will appear. It will be faint but its there.

That light may come in the form of a helping hand, a story, a word said, a sign, a song or even the voice of God. When you see it or hear it, you will know that it is time and this spark will begin to light the way and lead you out and you’ll find that you’ll have the courage to follow.

But sometimes you’re are so beaten and broken, the only sparks you can see come after a blow to the head. And you’re so lost and it’s so dark that hope is unrecognizable. At this point, it…

View original post 46 more words

From Ruby

Ruby's Letter

Ruby’s Letter (c)Gracie K. Harold 2014

Translation: “Dear Mom,

My reading program says to [write] and send a letter to my favorite author. (That’s you).

I love you. Your book is a good book (well, the parts I’ve read, that is).

-Ruby”

Happy Tuesday!  This made my day!  🙂

The link to my book is here: “Across the Street From Normal”.

I have absolutely no regrets about leaving the abusive situation that we were in all those years ago.  Instead of seeing her mother as a victim, Ruby sees me as an author, an income earner, a society contributor, and a confident woman who is loved by God and her husband.  That’s all I ever wanted.

Today, I feel like I have what I wanted.

Love, faith, family, friends, and confidence.

 

Lilacs & Shackles, sneak peek

2014-05-19 11.26.04

Lilacs & Shackles (c)GracieKHarold2014

“Lilacs & Shackles”, excerpted from “Across the Street From Normal” by Gracie K. Harold, (c) 2014, used by permission.

TRIGGER WORD WARNING: drug recovery, addiction, abuse, miscarriage, grief, acceptance, motherhood

It started with the lilacs.  It was barely spring when my Daddy and my three children gave me a lilac bouquet in honor of Mother’s Day.  Instinctively, I rummaged for a vase in my cupboard, filled it with water and placed the flowers on my table.

That night, after my kids were in bed, I realized that my mom had given me the vase as a wedding present.  The last time that lilacs were in that vase was on my wedding day many years earlier.  My bouquet had been lilacs and a single white rose (in honor of the daughter I had miscarried).

My dad and step-mom planted their bushes after I was married.  The previous spring brought a few blooms, but this spring had the bushes “heavy-laden” with flowers.

So, there I sat.  I had an immense, fragrant “wedding bouquet” in my “wedding vase”.

I had grieved in the three and a half years since we left; but now I grieved the fact that it had never been a “living” marriage.  The bottom line was that it was DOA and I spent five years desperately trying to revive it.  Before our wedding, I knew that my ex-husband had been through drug recovery, but his family members and friends assured me that it was all in his past.  He had recently graduated from a Bible College with an Associate’s Degree in Theology, and it seemed like he and I would have a great partnership working with inner-city kids and their families.  I was naïve and deceived.

I found out on my honeymoon (2,000 miles away from home) that I had indeed married an addict.  When I confronted him about the substances, he told me that he hated me and never should have married me.

I was humiliated, devastated, and ashamed.  I felt like such a fool.  I had given up the jobs that I loved for him.  I had given up some of my friends, and I had given up my neighborhood, too.  I slipped into denial.  I desperately thought that if I could just love him better, I wouldn’t be a failure at marriage.

Being the skilled charmer/deceiver that he is, he proceeded to “spoil” me and lavish gifts on me for the rest of the honeymoon; all the while promising that he would change and things would get better once we were home.

Two weeks after our honeymoon, I woke up at 3:00 in the morning.  The back door was swinging in the breeze, and he was gone.  No note, no explanation, nothing.  I called his cell phone, and he yelled at me.  He was at a party with his friends.

Later that month, I was vacuuming the house and rearranging the furniture when I discovered a plate and a straw under our couch.  He had gone through $3,000 of drugs in a month.  (I eventually found out that his mother had been meeting him to give him money behind my back).

I tried to talk to one of the pastors who had officiated at our wedding.  The pastor and his wife blamed me and told my ex-husband that he never should have married me!  They told me that I needed to “submit” more under his “Headship as the leader of the Household”, and then he wouldn’t be so stressed out.  They accused me of “causing his addiction by not being completely submitted” as a wife.

I spun into deeper denial and guilt, doing everything I could think of to please him.  It was never enough.

Around the Christmas holiday season, he decided to sell drugs.  I went ballistic.  I told him that there was no way that I would have that in my house.

I called another pastor from our wedding, and that pastor warned my ex-husband that I would get him arrested if he didn’t keep me under control.  Then, I called a Pastor friend of mine for advice.  He said, “Gracie, is he beating you or throwing you around?”  I answered, “No.”  The pastor literally said, “Then stop being so bitchy and just love your husband”.

So I did, after being absolutely positive that drugs would not be sold.

Right around the same time, we discovered mold in our rental house.  To me, it was the perfect illustration.  From the outside, the house was an adorable little bungalow.  Inside, it was filled with toxins.  The entire time that my ex-husband was using drugs, we went to church.  He played guitar and helped lead worship.  I kept thinking that his addiction was spreading out of control the same way that the mold was rapidly taking over parts of the house.

We ended up moving out of the rental due to health reasons.  While in our temporary housing one night, my ex went out to “talk with a friend”.  I had a horrible feeling about it before he left, and begged him not to go.  He insisted on leaving, and ended up having an altercation with the man; who jammed a gun into his chest.  Miraculously, my ex was able to run out of the house and call the police.  We found out afterwards that the man had pulled the trigger on his gun as my ex ran away; but it wouldn’t fire.  The situation resulted in a stand-off with police, until the man surrendered.

About a week later, we discovered that I was pregnant with our first child.

I thought that if we left our state and were connected with new friends and a new church, then my ex-husband would be able to break free of his addictions.  I was wrong.  I misjudged and underestimated the determination of an addict.  I later learned that he could walk through an unfamiliar crowded street and pick up his drug of choice within 20 minutes.

My Dr. told me that I had a high-risk pregnancy, and I knew I needed my family.  Mercifully, my ex finally relented and we returned home months later.  My hope returned one night when he dumped out all of his substances and said that he was ready to change.  However, throughout the pregnancy, life was an emotional roller coaster.

One minute he would be talking sweetly to my rapidly-growing belly; and the next he would be accusing me of carrying someone else’s baby.  I never knew how long the “good” would last.

We became involved with a good church.  We had a great network of other young married couples; and I honestly believed that maybe we could finally be “normal”.  It was only an illusion.  We joined a small group.  I maintained the façade for a while, but it was only a matter of time before reality reared its ugly head.  He had a way of humiliating people with subtle comments and snide remarks.  Little by little, the truth about his temper and obsession with control began to show.

I was about 27 weeks along in my pregnancy when I was admitted to the hospital for pre-term labor.  My contractions were so strong that the NICU specialist came into my room to explain everything that would be done to save my baby.  Because I had previously lost my daughter through a miscarriage, I was terrified of losing this baby, too.  I’ll never forget the isolated feeling that night after my ex fell asleep.  I felt so alone, abandoned and desolate.

I began to cry and beg God to heal my baby and my body.  And then, I prayed and dedicated my baby to God.  I surrendered.  I knew that my child was a part of God’s plan long before conception.  I yielded my child…for as long as God decided to bless me with my baby.  Suddenly, peace washed over me.  I knew that no matter what, God would hold me; and I was not alone.  I was in the hospital for days, and then amazingly, I was released.

I ended up on bed rest for 10 weeks. People from church were very kind to us.  They brought us meals, did our laundry, and prayed for us.  We entered into a relatively calm phase.

However, after I was cleared from bed rest, I started having contractions one evening.  They were six minutes apart.   My ex-husband screamed at me that it was not time to have the baby.  He was not ready for this.  He shrieked that I needed to knock it off, and he refused to let me go to the hospital.  My contractions stopped after a while.  This happened at least two more times over the next few weeks.

I was scheduled to be induced on an upcoming holiday.  The Sunday before, I thought my water broke.  After the initial exam, the Resident told me that they had an extra bed open; and I could be induced the next morning.   My ex-husband looked at her and said, “No thank you.  She’s scheduled to be induced on the holiday.  This baby is being born the day after.”

Thankfully, the wise woman said, “I’ll leave you two alone for a moment.  Grace, remember that you’re two weeks past your due date.  You’re already here, and you’re welcome to stay.”

I knew I was “safe” at the hospital, I knew that he wouldn’t dream of yelling at me or trying to force me to leave.  I put my foot down.  I told him we were staying.  He was very angry, but for once, powerless.

My son was born and his name was deliberately chosen to remind me that “Yahweh is the God who provides!”   What a gift his life has been to me!  He has indeed been a constant reminder that Yahweh does provide for all of our needs!

Eventually, we switched to a church that was in our new neighborhood.  I knew a lot of people there through the school that I had attended, and I finally felt like my ex-husband was finding his niche as well.  He had given up substances in order to be a good father.  He had friends who were men of faith.

The following June, we dedicated our son, renewed our vows, and my ex-husband baptized me.  We helped out with the kids program that summer.  We took a mission trip to New York in August.  That’s where things started to unravel.

He had spent a year in New York at a drug recovery center.  When we went back to visit, he slipped back into the same old habits.  He flirted with other women right in front of me.  He demanded that he be allowed to play guitar for worship.  He insisted that he only do certain volunteer jobs at the ministry place.  He swore at me, yelled at me, and then turned around to hold the door open for me if other people were nearby.

One afternoon, we were helping out with a project on a covered basketball court.  I had our son, David, in his stroller.  The wind picked up, and it started raining so hard that the only dry place was at center court.  Suddenly, we saw treetops getting snapped off about a half mile away.  I grabbed my son out of the stroller, and another worker yelled, “Quick!  Run to the retaining wall and hunker down!”  I did.  My ex-husband crouched down a few feet away from me.  The other man grabbed him and yelled, “Cover your wife!  I’ll cover you!”  As the wind roared above us like a train, and trees were snapped in two; I began to cry at the realization that my ex was only concerned about himself.  If the other man had not been with us, I would have been the only one trying to protect our son.  No one was injured, thank God; and we spent a long afternoon and evening helping with the clean-up effort.

When it was time to leave New York, I was told that our trip money had been spent, so we could no longer afford a hotel like I had originally planned.  We had to drive straight through the night from New York to Michigan.  When we pulled into our driveway, we discovered that my ex had left the back door unlocked for the entire ten days that we were gone.  Miraculously, nothing had been touched.  I remembered how devastated I was at his lack of desire to keep us and our home safe from harm.

The dampness on my cheeks startled me back to reality as I began to cry over the recollections of my past marriage. The smell of lilacs wafted over to me again, and I realized that all of these horrific memories were condensed to the first 18 months of my marriage!  I endured that much hell in only 18 months?!  I grieved the death of my expectations.  I grieved and mourned and wailed for the death of my dreams.   I became indignant and angry over the good that I had not been given.

I have wrestled throughout my life with allowing my sadness to be expressed.  I constantly struggle with feeling inferior if I start to cry.  Over the years, I would literally assign time to cry…at night when my children were asleep; or while in the shower, or while running (in the rain).  This time, I completely surrendered to my sorrow.  I simply let it run its course.

I was surprised by how cleansed I felt afterward.  I pulled myself up from the crumpled heap that I had become; and unflinchingly buried my face in the lilac bouquet, breathing in the heady deliciousness.  I remembered something that my counselor friend had said about flashbacks.  He had told me once that   “the worst thing a flashback can do is scare you”.  The truth of his statement resonated with me in this moment as I took a quivering deep breath.

I exhaled slowly and evenly, visualizing all of my pain from the rejection of my first marriage.  I spoke aloud in a surprisingly firm voice, and said, “The worst thing that my former marriage can do is sadden me.  It has no power over me anymore.  I am loved by God, I am carried by Him and I can do this”.  I recalled a quote from L.M. Montgomery in her book, “A Tangled Web”.  The story outlines one of the heroines being jilted by her fiancée’ until he eventually finds himself jilted; at which point he comes back to beg her forgiveness in order to avoid being alone.  The heroine’s thoughts after she sends him away are as follows:

“To come back so soon – so shamelessly.  Hadn’t he any depth? Couldn’t he care really for anybody? But he had come—and his coming had set her free from phantom fetters.”

I repeated the phrase “phantom fetters” out loud.  The very shackles that I was so afraid of, the ones that I feared would limit me and hold me back; were merely “phantom fetters”.  They weren’t shackles at all.  I was only bound by my resistance to live my new life freely.  I held the power to walk forth unafraid.  What I thought were my shackles were as a hologram, a shadow of reality.

In that moment, I resolved to embrace life; not to run from it in fear.

I remembered sleeping in my childhood room on summer nights; with the intoxicating smell of lilacs wafting through the screened windows until my bedroom was saturated with the fragrance.

Why should he be allowed to steal the fragrance of my favorite flowers?  He had already stolen so much.  I was no longer shackled to him.

I picked up the vase, and brought it down to my bedside table.  As the aroma of freshly picked lilacs drifted around me, I peacefully gave myself over to a dream-filled sleep.

You can purchase “Across the Street From Normal” for this and other chapters of our life!

Unflinching and Unveiled

Red Rock Refuge

Red Rock Refuge @GracieKHarold 2014

TRIGGER WORD WARNING: Explicit chronicle of abuse endured, expletives with ###, etc., disturbing abusive behavior, drug-induced abusive behavior, past threats of violence and acts of violence recounted.  May this ever be a stepping stone and NEVER a stumbling block. 

Haltingly, and a bit awkwardly, I want to explain the disclosure event of the week.  Please extend me grace as I discover how to best divulge this part of me that has been veiled emotionally (and even physically) for so long.  Reassure me, if you can, for I feel exposed yet empowered.

James asked me a very hard question this week.  “Gracie, I don’t think that you have been completely honest with me about what really  happened when you were married to your ex-husband.  Baby, I’m here. I’m not him.  I love you.  Will you please tell me everything?”

*CUE mild panic attack*  My heart was racing, and I envisioned myself like Ginny in “Forrest Gump”® when she is throwing rocks at her old house but then she falls on the ground and claws the dirt in her bereavement.  I realized that I was shaking my head vehemently, as I murmured, “No, no….baby, no.”  I started crying.  I gulped air, and asked if I could tell him later, just not out in the public eye (we were in a quiet parking lot).  I explained that no one knew the FULL STORY.  He held me while I sobbed, and whispered that he was here whenever I was ready.  We continued our walk, holding hands, with me shaking like a puppy.

Later on that night, after I had been gently reassured, caressed and held; we embraced under the veil of darkness.  I asked James if he was ready for my full story.  He drew me even closer.  I told him.  Everything.

This is the part of the writing process where I fight the urge to dry-heave, I remember that I.am.loved; and I will my feet to move forward as I divulge the truth in black and white. ” Dear God, this is all YOU. I got nothing.  Push me over this precipice of faith.  I will believe that you have me, that James loves me, and that I am securely accepted in YOU.  Here goes, and please apologize to the coffee shop people as I begin to cry in the booth…”

There is no eloquence for the following, and I am incapable of delicate sugar-coated “Christian vulgarities”.  Please, I pray, see my heart through my awkward, blunt words.

The following chronicles the abuse that I endured at the hands of my ex-husband, may it ever draw your eyes to see the HAND of God as He protected, redeemed, and brought us out of hell; may it never draw your eyes to glorify anyone or anything but Jesus, my REDEEMER:

On our honeymoon, we spent a few days with my in-laws in Arizona.  One of the nights, my ex took off all my clothes and was kissing me.  His sister-in-law was outside our room by the laundry area; and after she walked away from the guest wing of the house, he threw me off of him across the bed and onto the floor.  He snarled, “You ugly B####!  I hate you! I never should have married you!”  I dry-heaved for hours, until his sister-in-law asked if I was okay.  She was told that I reacted to something that I ate, and then he threatened me behind closed doors.  I was 2,000 miles from home, in a gated community.  Where could I have gone?

He used to head butt me; after putting drugs in my food.

I would wake up in the middle of the night to him blowing drugs over me, or rubbing them in my nose.

He would “practice” throwing things as close as possible to my head while I slept.  Often I would wake up to things smashing into the walls, the headboard, or even into me.

I would wake up to find bruises on my abdomen, arms and legs; with no recollection of falling asleep the night before.

He would scream at me in a horrifying roar as he did a martial arts spin kick and would kick the door arch above my head.

He would threaten to hit the children unless I had sex with him.  Alternatingly, he would make me beg for things that I wanted.  I was made to get on my hands and knees and beg.

When I would carefully ask him to be kind to me, or do something for me, he would scream in my face and punch himself on the temple with his fists, saying, “Do you see what you make me do? I hate you, you F***ing B####! C***!  You’re so demanding!  Aren’t you the little “De-mandam?”  Then he would break something of mine, and tell me to clean it up.

When I would muster up the slightest bit of courage to tell him that I was going to leave, he would threaten to kill me, the kids, my family, and my friends.

“If you leave, we’ll kill you and make it look like an accident…In fact, I should do that anyway, good-for-nothing B####!”

At the very end of the marriage, I was planning to leave with the kids.  I acted like everything was fine; and made plans to escape.  One of our mutual friends told my ex that “If you don’t change soon, you’ll lose your wife AND kids.  She’s planning to leave.”  18 hours before my plan was enacted, he summoned up tears and begged me to stay.  He had been associating with a violent group of men, and I knew I had very few options.

I embodied every acting lesson that I had ever had, and kept repeating instructions that Dr. H. had given me, “A good actor never breaks character, Grace.”  I never did.  Not once.  I played the role of the subservient housewife, eager to please her husband and I jumped at his every beck and call for the next three months.

It was the performance of my lifetime.  My parents didn’t even know that I was planning our escape.

In the final days before we left, my ex confessed that he had tried to hire a friend to kill me and a friend of mine.

He confessed to trying to get a friend to tamper with the car so that I would die, but in a car accident.

One night, he and a friend forced me into a chair and proceeded to “interrogate” me for hours about being raped when I was in college.  He barraged me with questions that were horrifying, questions about the sounds, the sensations..truly sick and inappropriate things that still make me cringe.

That fateful morning when I awoke from a flashback and watched him snort drugs off our coffee table, our baby was on the couch next to him.  After I went to the bathroom, I groggily retrieved the baby and put him in his crib.  I could hear my ex-husband cussing and throwing things around.  I grabbed his switchblade, and silently pocketed it. He had been threatening to kill me, and I knew that I was outnumbered.   Acting oblivious to the drugs, I timidly explained that I was uncomfortable having his friends over so late (it was 2 am) when I was struggling with flashbacks.  I gently and quietly requested that his friend leave, and I headed to bed.

When I was 10, I read a true story about a servant girl during the Revolutionary times.  She heard a noise as she slept on the couch, but she forced her breathing to stay even, and her eyes to unflinchingly stay closed as an intruder walked past her.  As he crept up the stairs, she picked up a heavy object and hit him on the back of the head.  Her master awoke, and they discovered in the morning that he had killed others just up the road from them.  He had every intention of killing those in her household.  From the time that I read that story, I practiced fake-sleeping every night in bed.

The morning of the drug discovery, I put all my years of practice to use.  Laying on my side, I placed my right hand under the pillow as I clenched the switchblade.  I focused on forcing my body to relax and evened out my breathing.  I visualized the most peaceful memories that I had, and pictured God’s Hand overshadowing me.

When my ex-husband stormed into the room and threw things at me, I faked grogginess, and mumbled that I was tired and we could talk in the morning.  The feigned sleepiness and the mercy of God convinced him to be calm.  He eventually climbed into bed, and began a nerve-wracking cycle of almost falling asleep but then startling himself awake to scream at me, and cuss me out.  Each time, I played my role to perfection, first acting roused from sleep, then sleepily asking him to let me sleep again.  This repeated every 10-15 minutes for four hours until he finally dozed off at 6 am.  I stayed in bed, continuing my charade until 7:30 when the kids woke up.

I slipped into pants, pocketed the knife again, and tried to figure out how to modify my plan of escape.  Today was the day when I had originally decided to leave.  Now, however, I was unsure of how to proceed.

Part of my plan had involved going to the mall with a friend while the guys watched our kids, so that I could call the women’s shelter from her phone and find a way to whisk the kids out of the house.  It was 9:30 when our friends called to see what time we were coming over.  I gently tossed the phone onto the edge of the bed and said, “Phone call. It’s your friend. He wants to know what time you are thinking for today.”  That’s when all hell broke loose.

I was carrying our baby when my feet were knocked out from under me by the phone being thrown at me.  I held tightly to Rex, shielding him as I fell into the wall sideways.  I cried in pain until I was screamed at and threatened to be killed if I didn’t “shut the f*#% up!”  He called the older kids over to where I was, and yelled, “Look at your pathetic mom!  Laugh at her right now or I will hit you!”

I stopped crying, and faked a smile.  “Okay, kids…why don’t you go to the playroom and play?  Mommy will even bring Rex in so he can swing while you play.”  After they were safely behind the closed door, I returned back to where my ex was throwing things against the bedroom wall as he packed our suitcase.  “I’m going to F###ing California!  My connections will help me there! F### this S###! I hate you, B####! You F###ed up everything!  If you touch any of the money in the bank account I will F###ing kill you! DO YOU UNDERSTAND? I WILL KILL THE KIDS AND THEN YOU!  F### this! I need space! I can’t think with you F###ing in my face like this!”

“You’re right.  Why don’t I take the kids outside to play so you can think?”  I shoved shoes on my feet, whisked the kids out the back door, prayed desperately for safety, loaded them into the van, and took off on the road as I called 9-1-1.  Officers escorted me back to get the kids’ medicines, diapers, formula, food, and an extra change of clothes.  When we arrived, it was less than ten minutes later.  His drug snorting friend was already there.

After leaving, a friend escorted us to a women’s shelter where I was told that the current county I was in was not safe enough for us.  This is because my ex-husband’s family were highly involved in the county and federal legal system.  Within 24 hours of finding an attorney and filing for my Personal Protection Order (PPO) and divorce; his family member was in the office of my attorney, explaining their expectation that I would keep things quiet “in an election year”.

To date, all these years later, Friend of the Court in that County flatly refuses to revoke my ex-husband’s visitation rights despite the facts that I was granted Full Physical and Full Legal Custody of our children, and he has failed to comply with court ordered visitation requirements for more than 5 years, and there is a PPO in place barring him from being within sight range of the children, and we have resided in another county for more than 5 years.  Friend of the Court also refuses to transfer our case to the county that we reside in.

About a month after leaving my ex-husband, he called our insurance agent and tried to cancel my life insurance policy because, “You know, if she dies or anything happens to her, I don’t want it to look like I did it.”  He had two visits with the children, both of which resulted in them all ingesting peanut butter despite their ALLERGIES.  He allegedly told the children, “You are going to Heaven now, but don’t worry, Mommy will be there soon.”

When I reported these incidents, I was investigated for child abuse, and it was found that there was no preponderance of the evidence.  In other words, I was found innocent.  Charges have never been filed against my ex-husband.  He was eventually caught red-handed after stealing an automobile and driving it hundreds of miles away.  He served 10 months, and was released for “good behavior”.

He has terrorized my parents, ripping out their built-in grill and throwing it at their sliding door as he threatened to burn their house down. After a separate incident, he was arrested for arson, held for almost a year; and then released due to “mental incompetence”.

I refuse to cover his abuse with my silence anymore.

I will not veil his unacceptable behavior.

I will not be controlled and intimidated by his power-hungry, drug-crazed, rage.

I am no longer his.  I have been redeemed, and brought out of his hell.  I walk in the light of God’s unflinching and unveiled Love and Goodness.

I am in better hands now.

I am changed and empowered to walk unflinching and unveiled, unashamed and unafraid.

2 Corinthians 3:18, “So all of us who have had that veil removed can see and reflect the glory of the LORD.  And the LORD–who is the SPIRIT–makes us more and more like HIM as we are changed into His glorious image.” (New Living Translation)

 

 

 

Emotional Regurgitation

emotional regurgitation pic

 

Emotional Regurgitation by Gracie K. Harold

Memory-induced insomnia is the worst.  All the breathing tips and relaxation techniques cannot usher in the sleep which eludes me. We watched a movie tonight which triggered a mess of bad memories from the abuse I endured in the past; leaving me feeling raw and exposed. 

Normally, in the past; I would have pulled back and not told James what was bothering me or even that I was bothered.  Tonight, I had courage.  I didn’t pull back from him…I leaned in.  I gently spoke the truth about my fears and memories and insecurities. 

James is NOT THE SAME MAN that my ex-husband was.  James listened.  James held me.  He encouraged me to share more; and patiently sat beside me holding my hand while I did. 

He fell asleep holding me.  Note that I said “he fell asleep”.  I am still wide awake…through no fault of his, I just am.  His last words were, “I will hold you all night, baby.” His shoulder has been sore from work, and he rolled over.  (He tried…)

James is NOT THE SAME MAN that my ex-husband was.

Honestly, I feel battle-scarred and a bit intimidated tonight.  I don’t feel beautiful or lovely in this moment of remembrance.  It’s an emotional regurgitation to recall so many ugly & hideous things that were said and done to me by my ex. 

The abuse that I survived and the names that I was called DO NOT DEFINE ME ANYMORE.  That is NOT who I am!  He can’t steal this moment from me; he cannot have my happiness. 

James loves me.  I deserve to be loved; in fact I believe that I was created to be loved.  I am loved by a kind, tenderhearted Daddy God who won’t sleep at night so He can watch over me! (Psalm 121:4   says, “He who watches over [you] will neither slumber nor sleep”).  James is amazing; and he’s human.  He is limited by his needs to sleep, and eat, and just generally limited by life…we all are.  He cannot be everything to me; he cannot be expected to be everything to me because he is human.  There is absolutely no possible way that he could meet every single one of my needs.

I need someone who is available 24/7; without needing to sleep or take a break.  Sounds like I, in my neediness; am the perfect match for an Almighty God who is big enough to handle my neediness. 

What do you need?  He’s big enough to handle it; simply ask.

Rustic Chapel