When I started writing my testimony in Week 20, I quoted a favorite passage from “Hinds Feet On High Places” by Hanna Hurnard.
The Shepherd laughed too. “I love doing preposterous things,” he replied. “Why, I don’t know anything more exhilarating and delightful than turning weakness into strength, and fear into faith, and that which has been marred into perfection. If there is one thing more than another which I should enjoy doing at this moment is turning a jellyfish into a mountain goat. That’s my special work,” he added with the light of great joy in his face.
And that’s exactly what The Good Shepherd was doing from the moment I surrendered (re-surrendered) my life to Him on the carpet of my bedroom floor (Week 31) and as I continued with Counselor John, God brought greater and greater levels of healing. At first, the focus was reconciling and reconstructing the broken parts of myself because you can’t deal with the present when you haven’t dealt with the past. Then we worked on learning skills for conflict resolution, and understandably “T” and “She’s” continuing behavior were a daily source of conflict. By Christmas 1990 I was no longer listening to his assurances that “She” was his distant cousin. I became more adamant that “She” leave our house, and he would promise to do so by “x” period of time, but they were always empty promises.
When you grow up in a home “not looking at ugly and horrific behavior” … well almost any ruse to defer or distract will suffice.
Finally I insisted he move her out! But “T” had a knack for keeping me off balance, and his next maneuver was a doozey. That’s when he revealed the “secret” truth; that when he went back to South America in 1984, he discovered he had another child and that “She” wasn’t his distant cousin … but (in his exact words) “his illegitimate daughter”!
“T” said it was guilt that drove him to spend so much time with “She”, and that he was desperately trying to make up for lost time with her. Surely I could understand that! And to prove his integrity, he told me to go ask Counselor John, who confirmed that this is what “T” told him on his 3rd and last visit. (But of course, John was unable to disclose to me himself due to patient confidentiality).
Well! Even if that were true, it still didn’t explain their not-very-father-daughterly relationship! But then again, maybe I was misreading things.
It sounds so simple! Anyone with eyeballs could see that my husband had brought his girlfriend into our home and was having an affair with her, right in front of my face and in front of my children! But somewhere in my upbringing, I’d concluded that if you couldn’t prove it, you could be wrong. I think that’s the main reason I stayed in my first marriage so long … because I couldn’t prove “M” was having an affair. Same with “T” … I never actually caught him with her (thank God!!), and he had a special talent for always making everything seem like it was my fault, my misperception, my brokenness that was the real issue. The point is, when you grow up in a home “not looking at ugly and horrific behavior” (pretending it doesn’t exist, or dissociating from it) … well almost any ruse to defer or distract will suffice. Even one so idiotic as that “She” was his long-lost daughter!
Besides attending BV Bible Church, I was now reading through and studying the Old Testament with a hunger I’d never known before. It was fascinating to me to read (for example) the story of the Exodus and then review the journey on a Bible Atlas or study book. I was opening my heart to the Word of Life, and I was being transformed from the inside out!
I was also learning new coping skills. By July 1991, I had finally gotten strong enough to give “T” an ultimatum. Like I did with “M”, I told “T” that I was moving out the end of the month unless he removed “She” from the house. That weekend, he took “She” and the older kids to go play soccer while I loaded up our old van with 2 twin beds, an ice chest, a few lamps, our clothes, the CD-player/boom box and my two precious little girls. Our destination was the old rental house on the east side which was currently vacant but had no refrigerator (thus the ice chest 😊).
I had worked my way up to Isaiah by that time. I clearly remember pouring my heart out to God in that dreary old house (in what used to be my step-daughters bedroom because I refused to stay in the master bedroom) and encountering Isaiah 40:11 for the first time. It was so comforting to me, so tender.
“He tends his flock like a shepherd; He gathers the lambs in his arms and carries them close to his heart; he gently leads those who have young.” ~ Isaiah 40:11 (NIV)
The following night I read Isaiah 42:16 and it seemed as though Jesus Himself was sitting on the edge of the bed with me, speaking so softly to me, promising me …
“I will lead the blind by ways they have not known, along unfamiliar paths I will guide them; I will turn the darkness into light before them and make the rough places smooth. These are the things I will do; I will not forsake them.” ~ Isaiah 42:16
And from that moment on, I knew that He would walk us through whatever challenges were ahead. That even though I was terrified, I would be safe because He was with me. That He would let nothing happen to me, and that He would work all things together for my good and for the good of my daughters. He would not forsake us!
While camping out in that old rental “T” visited once to tell me he had moved “She” out and ask me to come home … but all he did was move her a few blocks over. Once he realized I wasn’t taking the bait, he quickly moved her back in. For the next few weeks, I drove across town to bring the girls to “She” for daycare while I worked. All the while, “T” waited patiently, fully expecting me to weary and move back. After all, I had always relented in the past.
But as soon as I got my next paycheck, I moved the three of us into a small apartment near the elementary school and near our church. I was 30 years old, and my daughters were 4 and 7. Then, as quickly as I could, I hired Attorney Casey (a GIANT of Christian attorney) and filed for divorce.
It was while living in that sweet little apartment that I wrote “Jenny P” a letter. I thanked her for all that she had done for me, for her willingness to take on the abuse and be the caretaker for my pain, so that “Little Jenny” wouldn’t have to see and feel what she was unable to comprehend and cope with.
With tears streaming and in loving words on paper, I held “Jenny P” close to my heart and comforted her in the way that I wish someone had done for me back then.
And I invited “Jenny P” and “Little Jenny” to come abide in me … to re-integrate with the whole and healed woman I’d become.
[I kept that letter for many years following … until one day I no longer needed record of it. I could let it all go.]
Needless to say, “T” did not like this new woman … the one who wasn’t buying every stupid thing that came out of his mouth, the one who stood her ground, the one who defended her children, the one who had the aid and support of Counselor John and Attorney Casey.
Within just a few months of being served, “T” announced he was marrying “She”. He also said he was going to file for custody of our daughters.
Oh SNAP! Attorney Casey quickly depositioned Counselor John about “T’s” earlier confession that “She” was his “illegitimate daughter”. (Let him try to explain THAT to the Family Court System!!)
Undeterred, “T” began using my daughters as pawns in a chess game, sometimes exhibiting very bad behavior towards them in the process. But I was now documenting things, bringing them up during Mediation. And tensions continued to rise.
One Sunday morning, on my weekend with the girls, one of the Pastors pulled me out of the sanctuary to tell me that “T” was had come to take my daughters out of Sunday School. Thankfully, their Sunday School teacher was one of my dear friends and she refused to let him take them, instead sending for me. By the time I cleared the church foyer, I could see “T” and my friend out on the front lawn – “T” had already gotten my oldest daughter into the car, but my friend was still holding onto my youngest daughter to keep him from taking her too. I confronted him. I tried to get my daughter from him (there were now 2 women fighting him). He was so strong, and somehow, I’d ended up on the ground around, holding onto his leg while he held my daughter and my friend held him. It all happened so quickly … I did the only thing I could think to do to make him let go … I craned my neck up and I bit him in the _alls.
As you can imagine, by now we had attracted quite a crowd … and as soon as “T” released my daughter, others stepped in to keep him corralled until the police arrived. After explaining that “T” tried to remove the kids from church without permission, and of his threats to take the girls away from me and leave for South America if I ever dared to leave him, the Police urged “T” to leave the premises and encouraged me to take more formal actions regarding custody (as they were limited to what they could/couldn’t do).
That Sunday, my daughters and I went into hiding for a few weeks. First, we stayed nearby with friends from our Church, and then I drove us a few hours away to stay with my cousins J&C. In the safety and sanctuary of their home, I wrote an approximate 20-page statement chronicling my marriage to “T”, the arrival of “She”, and all that had taken place since. With that, I filed for sole custody of my two daughters.
We spent the a total of 3 ½ years in the court system. When “T” dragged one of my daughters by the hair across the floor – we went back to court. When “T” upset them with claims that mommy “made daddy have to pay money to see them” – we went back to court. When “T” quit paying child support – back to court. “T” threatened me – back to court, got a restraining order. “T” violated the restraining order, kicking/banging and threatening me through the door of my apartment (while my daughters hid in their bedroom) – yup, back to court. And so on, and so forth.
It was a process, a long and painful one … but by his own actions and by his own behavior not only did “T” loose custody of our daughters, but eventually he lost visitation rights.
By the time my girls had hit their tweens, “T” had lost all power over me.
“But now, this is what the LORD Says –
he who created you Jacob,
he who formed you, Israel:
“Do not fear, for I have redeemed you;
I have summoned you by name; you are mine.
When you pass through the waters, I will be with you;
and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you.
When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned;
The flames will not set you ablaze.
For I am the LORD your God,
The Holy One of Israel, your Savior;
I give Egypt for your ransom, Cush and Seba in your stead.
Since you are precious and honored in my sight,
And because I love you…”
~Isaiah 43:1-4 (NIV)
Within these 13 posts (starting with Week 20 and ending here in week 32), I’ve done my best to truthfully reconstruct my journey “from Jellyfish to Mountain Goat” …, not for the accolades of man but testify of and give glory to the power of God to rescue, deliver, and transform!
And what He did for me, He is well able and willing to do for you. It may not happen overnight, but if you will fix your eyes on Him and entrust yourself to Him, He will get you through whatever needs to be gone through to get you to the place of joy and peace that He has prepared for you. He is faithful! He will not forsake!
Bethel Music, Kristene DiMarco
Slow down, take time
Breath in He said
He’d reveal what’s to come
The thoughts in His mind
Always higher than mine
He’ll reveal all to come
Take courage my heart
Stay steadfast my soul
He’s in the waiting
He’s in the waiting
Hold onto your hope
As your triumph unfolds
He’s never failing
He’s never failing
In the years that followed, more ugly truths came out – but those stories belong to others and are not mine to tell.
Instead, I shall share with you of His promises to the broken hearted, of His ability to go to the deepest places and bring healing, His strength to snatch the captive right out of the teeth of the wicked, of His willingness to breath life on dry bones! He will finish all that He’s begun – stay steadfast and trust Him!!!
I’ve been honored by your following along with me these many weeks. I hope you’ll join me again, for in my next post I’d like to tell you about veiled rememberances that surfaced years after my divorce and the onset of a new set of recurring dreams and nightmares that plagued me from my mid 30’s to mid-40’s, and how God delivered me from them.
But for now, please comment and share with me one or two of your favorite Bible passages – the ones that keep you going even when the night seems blackest.
Here is the one I have held on to from July 1991-present:
“Do not be afraid; you will not be put to shame. Do not fear disgrace; you will not be humiliated. You will forget the shame of your youth and remember no more the reproach of your widowhood. For your Maker is your husband— the Lord Almighty is his name— the Holy One of Israel is your Redeemer; he is called the God of all the earth.” Isaiah 54:4-5 (NIV)
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