Joel said that although this is not easy for him, because honestly, it's embarrassing and he hates that all of this happened in the first place...but, if it 1) helps me to process and get to a good place/helps me turn it around and use it for good, and/or 2) helps any others along the way, then he doesn't want to hide it away...he wants it to be used. I agree. Otherwise, what a waste of a really crappy few years in our lives. No, what the enemy meant for harm, we will use for good. I hope that you remember that motive behind the following words as you read through this post.
Also, the next blog post (which I have already written) starts to get into some real meat of some of the things we're learning through all of this. So, I promise it's coming. But, all of that has to be prefaced by all of this. Again, not just 'airing our dirty laundry' (as some people would call this) for no purpose. It's all just the set-up for some deeper level discussion about some deeper level issues and beliefs. Just hold on and trust the set-up process. :) Now...on with the post...
Joel wrote the last ‘Joel. Michawn.’ blog post (our 4th installment in this series). Since he did, I can now keep going with our story. In the 2nd post, called ‘Detours,’ I talked about some of the major ‘Level 10 Traumas’ that we’ve faced in the past few years. In the 3rd post, called ‘What Happened to Us,’ I gave a little picture of what our unstable lives had been like…and how by the time spring 2012 rolled around, I NEEDED to retreat from battle…I NEEDED a break, to rest, to recover, to heal. Because...
As I’ve written about, giving many specifics already (so I won’t do that again here), our last year in Brazil was very, very hard. I want to make it very clear that it had nothing to do with Brazil specifically. Or living in a foreign country. And it had nothing to do with missions specifically. Or our work there. We just faced a lot of other kinds of difficulties and challenges and trials.
So, when we got back to the United States, all I wanted to do was do what we had committed to do those first two weeks back (teach in two different VBSs), then set up the house we were set to live in, and then do NOTHING but everyday life (homeschool, soak in family, and get some MAJORLY NEEDED R&R at the lake…literally let the land that God had raised me in provide healing). I cannot stress enough how badly that was needed.
And then our last day in Brazil came. We were finishing up packing. And the news came that we would not be able to live in that house here in Louisiana that our friends had hoped would be ready for us.
It was a blow. But, the 6 of us were all packed, our house was all packed up so that others could live there, the plane tickets were bought, so off we went…not knowing where we would go on the other side.
Long story short, what we foresaw and hoped would be two weeks of busy when we first got to the states, and then being able to settle in and relax, actually turned into a complete tornado of life. We spent the next 3 weeks trying to figure out where to live. We started the process of buying a house-turned-flower-shop at the end of that first month that had to be completely remodeled. We were buying the house from a really good friend of mine (I had actually been a bridesmaid in her wedding). We started the process and I spent almost all week with her doing stuff at the house. She had a lot of stuff at the house that she was going to sell. I went through it all first since we needed some stuff to set up life here. Then she had a garage sale that weekend. She went home from the garage sale that Saturday evening, and she died, completely unexpectedly…from a very rare issue stemmed from a heart condition she didn’t even know she had. She was 41.
To say it was a very stressful, very mournful time would be quite the understatement.
And this is where it started getting really, really hard marriage-wise. This is why Joel had to tell his story from his point of view, so that it would be him admitting to and telling his story before I told the story in a bit more detail.
Joel talked about in his blog post an event that he had promised me I would not have to miss again. Since I was a little girl, I’ve always loved the Christmas season…but it’s Watermelon Festival week that has always been my most favorite time of the year. It’s a festival my small town has every 2nd weekend in July. The whole town comes together every evening during that week for activities…and the week ends with the big festival that Saturday. It’s like a big town reunion really. And everybody who lives here just LOVES it and so looks forward to it every year. I’ve shared it with many people over the years…bringing back people from college, co-workers from the hospital where I worked after college, other friends throughout the years. Many people close to me have been able to experience the Watermelon Festival with me.
Except my own family. I had grown up dreaming about the time I would have my own husband and children to share this with. And as of 2012, that dream had still not been realized. In 2010, we were finally here in the states in July and the kids were the perfect ages to really get it and enjoy the activities and participate. But, Joel asked me to give it up so that we could head out and do something that was important to him. He promised me that it would never happen again. And that the next time we were in the states during the summer, we would make the Watermelon Festival happen. I hesitantly, and very sadly, agreed. We pulled out of town as they were literally beginning the first night’s activities that year.
Then came 2012. There was another big event that was special to Joel (special to all of us) that, again, fell on the same date as the Watermelon Festival. Even though it had been relayed ahead of time that we wouldn’t be able to make it to that special event if it was set for that date because it had already been set in stone that we would be making it to the Watermelon Festival that year (because for us specifically in our lives, the festival might be held annually, but we were never here annually; and if we didn’t make it to the festival that year, my dream of experiencing it with my children as actual children would be gone)…we let that be known, but that big event was still scheduled on the Watermelon Festival date.
We had known about that decision since January 2012, but it developed into an incredibly tense and hard issue. Add on to that the tornado we’d been thrown into concerning housing. And then, we lose Melinda.
We lost her on the Saturday night before Watermelon Festival week. We buried her that Wednesday. At some point in the days between her death and her burial, Joel told me that he had bought an airline ticket to the conflicting big event (done totally and completely behind my back), and that he’d be breaking his word to me, and leaving early Friday morning.
So, when he says things like, "I still continue to try to grasp the horribleness and devastation I brought about to my marriage and family by my mindset and actions these last years,” as he did in his blog post, it’s a very true statement. Because as he also said, we had functioned "like a well-oiled machine" for basically our first 11 years. These actions that were starting to show up at the beginning of 2012 that were, quite honestly, devastating to our family, were coming from a man that I didn’t even recognize.
And those kinds of actions continued constantly from then on out.
In the end, after a completely sleepless Thursday night of wrestling (with me, and with himself), Joel didn’t go. But it was very definitely one of the first signs of a major breakdown in our relationship.
We look back on that time and wonder, what happened? That whole first year back in the states I kept thinking, ‘He’s going to snap out of this. This is not the man I married. We’ve always been friends, we’ve always worked so well together, we’ve always been a team.’ So, I really just kept thinking it would be over soon…something would click with him eventually.
At first, I thought that it would happen when we finally got moved into the house. We worked non-stop on it, 12-13 hr. days. We started the week after Watermelon Festival, mid-July. And we moved in the first week of October. Even though he had asked me if we could all drive to New England and back for a trip during early August. And even though he had asked me if we could go to a training in SW Texas in mid-August. And even though he asked if he could go on a week-long mission trip to Costa Rica in September (which he actually did do). All of these requests being made during the craziness of trying to get into a house of our own so that we could actually unpack our suitcases for the first time since May…even then I thought that surely he was just stressed and that was how he handled it. He would relax and let me relax and recover once we got in our house.
But, that never happened. The requests to travel and go about a 'normal' furlough never ceased. And he immediately got busy with the business of a normal furlough schedule…visiting churches, going to trainings and conferences, etc. And dragging us along.
So, the whole first year, like I said, I had truly thought that maybe it would click for him eventually. My need for rest and relaxation and a healing time was not going anywhere until that need was met.
But, by the end of that first year, it became very clear that not only was it not clicking, and not only was I not going to get my healing time anytime soon…it was just getting worse and worse and worse by the day. Because instead of getting that break and healing time, I was being continuously pressured to just keep moving along.
The Bible says that we are not to be unequally yoked. That means that it is wise to be equally paired up in your marriages. Not equal as in the same (because no two people are the same, obviously), but equally paired. Look at this picture…
If these two oxen were unequally paired, and therefore unequally yoked, then there would be some major problems. They would not be functional at all. They would not be able to function as a team. They would not be able to do the task they are needed to do.
Being equally yoked means that you are both moving in the same direction in life…you have unified goals and visions.
And that’s the way we were. For the first 11 years. We were equally yoked, with the same goals and visions, with the same pace even. With the same rhythm, the same strength, the same flow.
But then this ole ox got pretty beat up by that pace and by the things that just continued to come our way. That pace and the particular trials we went through and the demands of our lifestyle happened to usually affect me more and demand more out of me (this particular ox in the yoke) to be honest. Who was it that always did all the packing, for five people, for every single trip we made? Who was it that did all of the setting up of houses, making each house a home? Who was it that was responsible for keeping the kids homeschooled, no matter what chaos we found ourselves in? Who was it that had babies that died inside of her? Who was it that had to physically deliver those babies and physically recover from those tragedies? And the list of questions goes on and on, but the answer to those questions is ‘me.’ So, no wonder this ox started to falter, started to stumble along the path. No wonder this ox needed recovery and healing and a break. RESPITE.
And here’s where it all went wrong. (Please remember as you read the rest of this paragraph that there is a point to all of this, a 'moral of the story.') But...instead of my teammate, that other ox that was yoked to me, stopping…that other ox just kept going. Instead of him recognizing that his yoke-mate needed to pause, he insisted that a pause wasn’t necessary. He continued to trudge along, dragging that already-beaten down ox along the gravel, causing even more damage. Even getting irritated that that ox thought a pause was necessary.
Please hear me when I say that I reveal all of this NOT to make Joel sound bad. Believe me when I say that he now knows and sees all of this for what it was. Which is why he could write that blog post that he did. He was blinded by wrong beliefs, and also by others’ very wrong counsel. But, through that all, a lot has been revealed to us…and we’ve learned a lot.
And THAT is why this is all talked about. Oh boy, do I have lots to say about marriage. And about being yoked. And about belief systems concerning both of those issues.
But, this is getting long, so I’ll wait until next time to get into those things. But, more about the yoke and belief systems in general concerning marriage next time.