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.

Abigail The Re-Marrier

Facing custody court (again), I was led to the story of Abigail.

HOW with my history, did I manage not to read this before?

Abigail Рmarried to a truly unsavory character (probably arranged, in her defense Рhe was loaded and she was pretty and we know in the ancient world those two things sometimes led to an unwanted or at least undesirable union). One day he did a truly foolish thing and his wife, after the fact, learned he had laughed at and scorned King David.

I don’t think I would have gotten past the YOU DID WHAT? stage if my first husband had done such a thing. Although he did have a habit of offending anyone who knew him any length of time. I’m envisioning Abigail among her handmaids, doing Old Testament house wife kinds of things – and a servant coming in with a mortified look on his face to inform her “guess what he did THIS time”. The servant was smart to tell her. I’m sure it wasn’t the first time servants ratted on Mr. Nabal.

And Abigail – far, vastly superior woman – didn’t panic when she heard that King David was doing exactly as one might expect of King David and coming to deal with her buffoonish husband. With an army. Rather than chasten the hopeless case who shared her bed, she prepared gifts for the offended king and went out to meet him. Despite her own standing, wealth and apparent beauty, she humbled herself. A wise woman, she understood there was nothing her husband could or would do to avert the marching disaster, but that she might be able to speak reason to the offended king.

Her argument why David shouldn’t destroy her entire household was much cleverer than anything I would have thought of: King David should leave revenge to God, and spare her stupid husband for his own sake. Let her husband deal with what was coming; David should remain above such a trivial and potentially dangerous action.

It is hard for me to discern – David’s ego (it was nice to have praises of such a woman heaped on your head, I’m suire) or David’s better self (after all, his God did indeed claim all rights to vengeance and still does) won out. The twit was spared. The pretty, genteel and very clever wife saved the day. Home she went to tell the drunkard how she had averted disaster, but not until the next morning when he had sobered up enough to understand – you nearly got yourself killed and I fixed this. I am confident she managed to relay this news with grace. I would have likely thrown pottery.

Her husband did her the tremendous kindness of dropping dead very shortly after, and King David did her the even greater kindness of wooing and marrying her. Bathsheba might have set his pulse racing, but Abigail apparently held his heart. They had a long and joyful marriage. She was the advisor, the companion and the consort.

We know enough about King David to understand this: he did like beautiful women, but I’m sure he appreciated a woman of her standing who wasn’t afraid to defend her home and her husband, showing tremendous loyalty to an oaf who didn’t deserve it. Abigail would not have laughed at David for dancing in joy. Abigail would have brought him a glass of water or danced with him. Abigail would never have taken a bath on the rooftops. David likely reasoned that this mature, wise woman would whisper Godly counsel in his ear, guide him thoughfully and gently, defer to him with respect but ensure that whatever he did, she would be there to smooth over or defend the imperfect moments for him. She didn’t gloat over her silly husband, she wouldn’t chasten or gloat over the King. This was a good wife to add to one’s collection.

And for Abigail? Sure, she must have thought, oh my another husband…the streak wasn’t exactly a winner so far. But David was reputedly handsome, and strong, and even with his occasional issues with impulse control he was a steady, Godly man and a fierce warrior too. If I were Abigail, that last one would be enough all by itself. No one is going to mess with me or my family with King David and his sword in front of me.

I know exactly how she feels. I married a wonderful man the second time, but I can’t claim any of Abigail’s cleverness or sense in going about it. But I do see how her patience, her insistentence on the high round was rewarded and very generously. What could be better as payback for time in a special Hell than to marry the most desirable man of your generation? And live in a castle?

I’m not expecting my first husband to be struck dead in quite such a dramatic fashion. And I might have to do some more fighting – that’s okay – it took seven times around Jericho to get those walls down. I can do some more marching. God’s people have faced laughter, scorn, ridicule and overt hatred all over the Old Testament and yet they were never defeated. God only rarely swoops in and does mass destructions. God usually prefers to equip his people and give them the test of the fight, and the rewards of obedience, determination, focus on Him and an attitude of service. Not my war, but Yours. Not my strength, but Yours. Not my glory – but Yours.

As Beth Moore points out in one of her teachings – it’s a fight “for” not a fight “with”. Fight for my daughter. Fight for my family. Fight for the right thing. Fighting “with” my ex is an unfortunate consequence but it’s not the centerpiece, not by a long way. And Fight With only matters when it’s “fight alongside”…when the one you are fighting with is the ruler of the universe, that’s critical indeed. After all, where was I when he hung the stars?

I will Never Leave You or Forsake You. It’s a promise – it was true for Abigail, it was true for Joshua and it is true for me. I will step on those high places – and one of them will be custody court. Those high places are MINE to bring down – not on my own strength or righteousness, by any means. But My God has a plan and he’s going to come out of it looking as amazing as always. All I have to do is keep marching, trusting, obeying. Those things aren’t easy, but they are possible and they are necessary.

Abigail inspired me through the hardest three days I’ve faced in a very long time – in court, listening to the other side list every minor parenting mistake I’ve made in eight years, put them ALL together and then blow them up. It was rough, but I survived. I had a shield.

Abigail probably did it with more grace. But I did it, and My God made sure I did. I’m not sure what he’s planning, but having seen what he did for Abigail – and having seen the charming man he found for me the second time around, I’m okay with letting Him do it His way. We have to finish this fight in a few months. This time, it won’t be my shield that I need, but my sword. I’m relying on and trusting my God to lead me to fight fairly, to fight for and not fight with, and to know that He is there, always.

Anyone who gets in the way had better know, the Mama Lion you’re looking at is the least of your worries. My God hasn’t lost one yet.

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.