After the Battle

The custody battle that has occupied too much mental, physical, emotional and financial resource for two years is finally over. My oldest is now living and going to school in London.

Amazingly, this is actually almost okay. Relatively okay.

I’m not thrilled, but here is the thinking:

– I still unfortunately suspect the motives of any father who would take an eleven year old away from three younger siblings, but he has been a painfully critical father for all those elevent years. Let him parent. We shall see.

– There are a lot of responsibilities to go along with parenting a child, and a nearly-teenaged one more so. It looks easier than it is. Not all of those responsibilities are immediately apparent. What happens when there isn’t anyone or anywhere to take a vacation from those responsibilities, which might be strongly desired for someone who has never been a full-time parent – what then? We shall see.

– God loves, adores and takes wonderful care of this child and has ever since she was the size of a grain of rice. He has not stopped. While I do not pretend to understand the liberal court craziness that led to this decision, it is a decision that was from the hand of God and I would not for the world step out of His grace or His plan. This part is painful, but sometimes He does that. Better to see what the longer term vision is, because it will be tons better than anything I could have come up with.

– Truth? I would not change a single thing – the comments of our friends and family validate that our family is healthy and strong and much loved, and we are parenting our little flock with all the care, love and service required from good parental stewards. So the court did not judge by the same standards – this isn’t a surprise, is it! This is the same structure that unleashed OJ isn’t it! Whose opinion am I really concerned about? Not any judge!

– Besides, hope does not disappoint and I know there is more to this story that I can’t see. I do not think for one minute that my God would have me go through this – and my family, and my friends – without honoring the humility it has required, the obedience and the trust. Especially the trust. That was big.

So while I do miss her and her silliness and thinking too much about it can reduce me to tears – go away Accuser, and leave this mama be – I am generally at peace. I have discovered that the compassion that used to terrify me is more accessible now and I can hear or read awful stories without thinking, NOT MY CHILD…no, it isn’t about my child but the right response is to pray for whoever is in the awful story, not take the bait from Satan that it is a sign of impending doom, and move on.

The most liberating things out of all of this are the biggest surprises. The fighting is over – my first husband is daily sending awful, vicious, gloating emails and they just flow past me. (Thank you Lord). The fighting is over! He can’t pick any more fights – and we don’t have to rise to all this bait! (Thank you Lord). My worst mama nightmare is realized in a much less awful form than I had feared – and I’m walking this out and actually, pretty darned okay. It could have been so much worse. THIS is manageable. (Thank you Lord). I have learned how to fight, I have realized part of my calling in life is to be a warrior even though I’m a woman, and I am perfectly capable of any fight that comes my way but only because my God is able. I just sort of have to turn up. (thank you Lord, that one especially is a really good deal).

And…we are looking at the positives. That my daughter is attending a very swanky British private school that I am not paying for, and this is a huge experience for any kid especially an American one. That she has the opportunity to be very close to her father, if she chooses, or she can evaluate for herself who and what he is, without my influencing even unintentionally. She seems to be doing okay. We are going to let her sit for a while – let’s see how this plays out.

In the UK, she can decide at age 12 what she wants to do and the courts will honor it. She should have a pretty good idea by then, and we will honor what she wants too. I am letting her be a little more than I’d like but in the interest of letting this play out – her father needs to learn the same as I did – how you handle the little issues, and the big ones, how you handle the day-to-day drama of raising a child, what you do when you want to go out or be quiet or read in peace but you have a child and it just isn’t going to work that way.

If he is a different person than I think – this will work out great, and he will have a good relationship with her. That is a super outcome.

If he is the same person that I think – it will get old, fast. That’s okay too.

But the best part of all of this – I am not in control and there is not one single thing I have to do right now except trust. No fights. No worrying. No fear. Just trust. Amen and Selah.

Discernment and Fist Fights

So my nine year old daughter (first marriage) decided she had enough of her father’s terms of engagement.

Enough being left in her hotel room while he hung out at the bar and drank.

Enough bad-mouthing of Mama, enough of the suspect moral girlfriend, enough of chatter that kids are too much trouble, go to your room, be quiet.

She wanted to be home with her three younger siblings and her step-father (who is Daddy) and me, and get an Easter dress for the first time since the visitation rules started and not be a part of all that negativity and ire.

So instead of going along at the handover (where Ex and Suspect Moral Girlfriend had Lawyer-of-Ex, slime factor around 11), said daughter threw a diva tantrum and refused to go quietly.

RIP, passive females in our house.

All this time, I believe I was fighting my own fear, and trying to help her confront her own fears at the same time. We were a team, but neither of us had much confidence. Pumped up by lots of prayer support and a determination way beyond 9 years, she did it. She went with him, then refused to go and jumped back in our car.

They wanted to have us arrested for contempt of court, for not handing her over. My husband thought quickly and called the police. The lawyer tried to bully us, but faced with police moderating this handover, he advised them to let her come home with us.

After all, we tried to hand her over and we tried to make it work, but she wasn’t having it. So they voluntarily and in the hearing of the p0lice sent her back home with us.

She hasn’t done anything unusual since returning, it is her spring break so she is playing and reading and doing crafts, all her usual things.

It is wonderful to watch.

Mama had some tremors in the run up to this very tense encounter. I am not actively afraid but I do not like exposure to the seedy family courts, the litigation, the endless lawsuits, the horrible sleaze in his refusal to pay anything to support this amazing child. Yet he insists on invading our lives and trying to control everything. Quibbling the size of her suitcase, protesting not enough clothing packed. While not buying any clothing for her. Trying to bully, intimidate. Lawyer doing that sleaze routine of not exactly saying taking her home was illegal, but certainly not admitting they couldn’t do anything.

He did not succeed.

I do not have the strength or the courage to face down my abuser. But I can discern that is what I must do. Walking it out, heart pounding, the courage and the determination came to both of us. I did not lose my temper. I did not say swear words to any of the evil trio. I simply took my daughter home.

It wasn’t a model handover. The police lady was nice, she took notes, she agreed that I should be prepared with the blotter if they try to take us to court.

There will be more of this, I am sure. He has never grown up and admitted he messed up our marriage. He cannot allow his pride to say that she is well cared for, and where she needs to be. He wants me to be punished.

But day in and day out, he is a non-entity and I have a wonderful, strong daughter who personally witnessed me moving Girlfriend of Suspect Morals out of the way, closing the car door and taking my daughter home.

So when I am tempted to think, oh the papers from court will arrive any minute…I have to think. And if they do? The same God who pulled us through this awful event with minimal trauma is going to be there. I see Him moving much more actively, purposefully, in this child’s life. He was always there. He has always watched her and cared for her.

But now He is doing something. How exciting, that we get to watch and participate! The fight is on, the fists are out and I know Who I’m betting on.

Other People’s Pain

Driving home from visiting another office, that Stephen Curtis Chapman song about his daughter came on the Christian radio station I like for that stretch of road.

Six months ago, I would have immediately switched the station. But since  it’s Lent, and I’m giving up anxiety about my children, I listened. Of course, that means I listened AND cried.

My fears and anxiety have bordered on pathological – listening to a song about a child who was killed in an awful accident, I was convinced, would endanger my children to the same thing. After all, my kids are sometimes in the driveway (or on planes, Portuguese resorts, by windows or wherever the news story or song placed the doomed child). I would think, not my child, please not my child. Pathological? For sure. Unfounded? Oh yes. And not very compassionate towards the victims or those suffering loss and pain.

It wasn’t just the music or the news, though. Recently, one of the deacons challenged me to step out and not be afraid to minister to other women. That I shouldn’t doubt my ability to reach them. I wondered at the choice of the word “fear” but I think I get it now.

Compassion can be painful. It means opening your old wounds just enough for the other person to see them, and feeling some of their pain too. Listening to music or news stories invites compassion (a little more remote, but the same thing). It’s painful. You experience a little of the pain in the story or song, and then I guess it’s human nature to project that into “what if that happened to me”. Sharing and ministering is painful on a different level – “this has happened to me and I’m going to relive it a little with you”.

But what I noticed was that yes, I did experience some of the pain, but the fear subsided very quickly. My kids were home and safe. Mr. Chapman didn’t write this song to scare parents, he wrote it because he loves his daughter and he trusts God that he will see her again. Mr. Chapman wouldn’t want me or any other parents to be afraid. But I’m sure as a wonderful Christian, he’d like for us to trust God too.

Sunday, one of the young women confided in me that she has seen a dark figure lurking recently. She reaffirmed her faith a couple of weeks ago, and is really marching on the right track.  So much so, that I counseled her – Satan doesn’t like you being on track. You are a formidable woman of faith, and he knows you’re less danger to him broken and scared. So he’s going to bother you. If you weren’t formidable, and dangerous to him, he wouldn’t bother. I thought she should be encouraged – this is a sure sign the plans for her are important, and she has gifts that God plans to use. Plus the strength she will gain from this fight will serve her in later fights.

Aren’t we told we can heal and cast out demons in His name? Well, I told her, you are up to the fight with this demon, just don’t try to do it yourself. Let us help you, let God help you and fight it out. I am so impressed with her. She has come a long way in a few months. Of course Satan is getting antsy.

As I spoke to her, I felt chills up and down my spine. I sensed the warrior angel’s presence – the one I feel when I’m in court fighting for my daughter. He’s a real kick bot angel. He doesn’t mess around. I’m always overwhelmed with the urge to do a primal scream and fight when he’s around. Everything in me knew, this is what I’m supposed to be doing, sharing some of my strength to encourage this woman, who I love dearly, whose suffering was visible and tangible to me.

It didn’t hurt. God was right there with me.

The whole Broken Vessels thing suddenly made sense to me. That’s when the real tears started in the car  – Am I broken enough yet? I yelled at God. I wasn’t mad at him, but I just felt like I’ve had enough. I want my kids to be safe. I have had ten years of fear and anxiety and that’s plenty. I’ve had ten different flavors of stress, so much so that I think I can relate to pretty much anything another woman throws at me.

Broken enough in this case means trusting Him to take care of me, and of them, and venture out into the wilderness of other people’s pain. Yes, it is going to hurt. Yes, I’m probably going to cry from some of it. But I’m not doing this by myself. God is going with me, and he will make me strong enough.

My next thought: look out bad guys, a fierce Mama and a warrior angel are coming after YOU. God help me! And I know, I know, I know He will.