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.

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Micro Manager

Most of the time, being micro-managed is a very bad thing. I have never worked well for managers who hover or worse, forcefully encourage me to adopt their methods and means to an end. I like better: there’s the galaxy, padowan, go to it.

Except when I’m wrestling through a very big trial, and then I appreciate the in-depth, detailed knowledge and insight my Holy Father has into my world. Tiniest details. I can’t grasp a mind big enough to hold the personal data I can’t keep up with myself times the billions of individuals in the world (and that is assuming we are it, for all I know He has dozens or more of these worlds to keep up with).

I am learning the warfare value of memorized scriptures. I can quote my handful of favorites back at the Enemy when he’s trying to do his thing and he goes away. But the arsenal isn’t very big yet. I am reading, voraciously, but memorizing is a time-investment and I will have to work on it the rest of my life.

So right in the middle of my court trial, I had one of the Christian stations on in the background during the night. My brain is so wired, our tv makes great white noise to drown out the screaming so that I can sleep. And then right in the middle of the night, a preacher (Baptist, definitely – it was a wild sermon) was shouting “If God is for you, who can be against you!” at least twenty times. Changing the emphasis…if GOD is for you…if God is FOR you…if God is for YOU…loved it. This is one of the few big guns in my arsenal – Romans 8. I love every word of it.

And earlier that same evening, same channel, different Baptist…the story of Jehosephat. Which I had been led to only a few weeks before in 2 Chronicles. Jehosephat who only had to show up and sing. It’s not your battle, Jehosephat. It’s not my battle either. I had been doubting how much I was supposed to do and then Jehosephat came up again.

I’m amazed at a God who goes to this much trouble to uplift a struggling daughter: ensuring two separate preachers on the one Christian channel I regularly watch would have sermons on, time them when I was awake (one in the middle of the night!), referencing scriptures I would easily recognize and have read during this particular ordeal, and play them on the very night I was agonizing about what I needed to do.

Amazing!

I’m sure I’m not the only believer who enjoyed or needed those words but still, powerful confirmation.

Here is what I learned from this micro-management moment between me and my loving Father God: sometimes I have to fight, but He is always there. I will be given as much reassurance as I need and I should not be so reserved about asking for it. He doesn’t want me to look at them, those I’m fighting. He wants me to look at Him. It will not be a matter of uncertainty, of what do I do now – it will be a matter of I am YOUR GOD and my part is obey Him and praise.

I can do that. I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.

Take the Cup Away

This Easter – as Lent ends – I’m learning a couple of new things, as usual, not the easy way.

First of all, I haven’t regretted leaving my old job for one second but…the new job feels a little smaller in some ways even though financially it is a lot better place to be. My title isn’t quite as cute. I’m not sitting around the big table (the big table is smaller, frankly). But the people are a lot nicer and I’m a lot saner even with the mess they hired me to clean up.

So it’s an ego check. My ego is a naughty secret – it’s huge if I let it get that way. I am proud of my PhD – and sometimes that can turn into prideful. I was very proud of my previous leadership role – and that can get prideful if I’m not careful. Vigilant.

There’s not much chance I’m going to get prideful about this job. I have to watch for an attack of the smuggins about my finances and not go crazy, forgetting my stewardship responsibilities. I think after years of lack, I’m probably less susceptible to that type of slippage – which is exactly why I have to be extra careful. The hits will come from places I don’t expect them.

At the same time, I have been listening to family, friends, clergy fretting about Courtroom Drama Part II, starting next week.

This is the same ordeal that I had total certainty and peace about.

Then the clergy told me I needed a lawyer. And my parents. My husband was the only one saying, no, I don’t think you do. You got this. (well, not *me* but it can be handled without the legal help).

So I thought about that old joke – the guy in the flood – police car, row boat and helicopter come to rescue him…he says no he’s waiting for God. He dies, and gets mad at God…God says, I sent you a car, a boat and a helicopter, what do you want?

I wondered if this was my cop car and my boat and I didn’t want to send the helicopter away too.

So we tried, and I prayed, frantically – don’t let this happen if it isn’t what You want. So we met with the lawyer (nice guy, especially for a lawyer), we discussed fees, we made a plan. Then the judge refused to give us the delay we needed to work with his schedule.

So we don’t have a lawyer, and after a week of working on it – I’m going to have advice, help, planning, strategy…but it’s going to be me versus my demons (with my ex husband sitting there).

I was crushed, but not for the reasons one would expect. I didn’t think I needed a lawyer (if God is for us, who can be against us). I felt pretty confident (you will trample upon their high places). I’m trusting in Someone a LOT more powerful than I am (I am your shield, your mighty deliverer).

I was crushed because in the face of this whispering worry, I didn’t stamp my foot and say GO AWAY, we got this. I let them make me concerned. I should not have done that and I repented bitterly and just…crushed. I knew that I had heard from God but if the Bishop is making noises…well, you see the miter and you doubt, or I did.

Lesson learned: I DO have a prophetic gift, however nervous and self-conscious I feel about it right now. God has blessed me with the gift He wants me to have, not one I picked out of a Gift Catalog. This means I hear from Him, and what He tells me, I need to trust. He’s happy to validate it for me (Thank you Lord) because he knows I’m still a little wimpy and unsure of myself and hesitant to trust…yes, I can really do this in Him. By myself, I’m like a pretty unplugged lamp. No shine. No power. Nothing.

But plugged into my Power Source…I shine. It’s not my light. But I shine.

And so I’m polishing up my weapons, feeling a little pressed for time (all I can find are these five rocks), shaking off the armor that was too heavy anyway (I have to do this the way I’ve done it before, like with the bears and the lions). That giant is big and scary and of course I am very nervous – the stakes are my oldest child who I adore, deeply and dearly. And my God knows exactly what that is about…the worry over your child, and the walking out a terrible ordeal. In comparison, my three days will be a lot easier than His. But He knows what I’m dealing with.

I adore this child of mine, and having her future to bargain for is scary because of how much I love this hard-fought child. But so does my God. He has both of us in the palm of his hand, and we are resting there. Selah.

My Lord, I pray that I will be your witness in the courtroom, that the words of my mouth will reflect Who I belong to, not my feelings or thoughts.

My Lord, I pray that You will show Your mighty favor and presence, giving me strength that I do not have, wisdom that I do not have, words that I do not have.

My Lord, I pray that your will prevails, that my family remains intact, and that I can walk out of there having obeyed and pleased my God, who I serve with gladness and singleness of heart.

Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done. If You will take this cup from me…please do…but if You won’t, I’ll drink it and trust You.

Send your warrior angels, my Lord and my God and we will fight! Who is like us, a people saved by the Lord? Who can stand against us?

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.