Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Joel. Michawn. {Part 12 - A Little Time Out In The Story}

Taking a little break in the timeline here to address something...again. 

Joel got a message a couple of days ago.  And while I know that the sender had nothing but noble intentions, on the other hand, it was also a little disturbing in the big scheme of things for several reasons.  In this message it proved that 1) some people aren't actually listening to what is written here and/or 2) some people aren't actually believing what is written here.  So, a little time out here to explain things again. 

This is part of the message that Joel received:
I apologize for being so nosy here, but once in a while I read some of the stuff Michawn posts on FB and blog about your relationship; however, since I never hear any word from you, I always wonder if you like that at all.

I remember one time that things weren't going so well here that I had posted something related to that on FB, and my husband got very aggravated, and he was right. We were blessed to have found a great counselor that pointed that our relationship shouldn't be posted on social media like that. I believe it only damages our private lives and opens up the gate to judgment by strangers.

So I'm not sure how aware you are of all the details that are posted about your lives.

We wish you the best, from the bottom of our hearts. But I know many who read those posts are just enjoying the soap opera.

If you'd like to talk, please call us!

God bless you!  
I'm sure there are others of you who wonder about these blog posts.  Who might think some of the same things.  Who might cringe when you see me post on Facebook that I've posted here again. 

Believe me when I say that I myself cringe writing them.  As I've said all along, this isn't a 'fun' part of our story.  This isn't what I wish I was writing about.  I wish I was writing about our cute little triplets who just turned 4 years old.  I wish I was writing about being in Brazil, and all the new developments in our lives in the past 2 years...and probably preparing to come back for furlough next year for everyone to meet the triplets.  I wish I was writing about all that's happened with Asas de Socorro, and missions, and the orphanage that we still volunteer at.  As you can see, I wish life had continued as 'normal.'  But, it didn't.  God will do something with this.  But, it still makes me cringe to know...

Those things are not our reality.  The 'big stories' of our lives these days are not fun stories.  But, I'm a HUGE believer in telling our important stories...all of them...even the ones that are no fun to tell (and definitely no fun to live).  And in doing so, someone else can learn from them. 

I'm sure there were people who thought it was inappropriate for me to put all I did on the blog about the miscarriage.  But, more than once, every single day, someone googles something about miscarriage and they are brought to my blog posts about my miscarriage...to read about my experience.  In their time of need...in their time of needing to know and hear from someone who has been through it herself (three times actually)...they can see and read for themselves the story of someone else who 'gets' what they are going through. 

I myself have learned so much from others who have opened up about the unfun things in their lives.  Hard, excruciating times...that I've gained so much strength and courage and encouragement by just reading and knowing someone else has passed through something so hard...and not only lived to tell about it, but thrived afterward. 

I have already heard from many people about how certain things that I've experienced during these past 3 years, written out here on this blog within the 'Joel. Michawn.' blog posts so far, have touched them, have helped them, have confirmed in them some of the thoughts and beliefs they were having, have helped them to see that they are not alone.  And these are the reasons that we do what we do. 

About Joel specifically...I feel like I've said these things a lot.  But apparently they still need to be said.  I'll just make a list here: 

1.  Joel reads and approves of everything that is written here.
2.  As he himself said in his own blog post, this is not fun.  He hates that this all happened in the first place, he hates that there's something to even write about.  But, there is...and if it can be used for good, then it needs to be used for good.  Even though the truth really sucks sometimes. 
3.  Joel hates to write.  Joel also hates to be on any kind of social media.  If you are friends with him on Facebook, you'll see that he averages less than one post per month.  He hardly ever gets on at all...him popping on probably averages a whopping twice per month.  He never ever blogs (except that time I asked him to)...he hates to write...and hates to write even if what he is writing about is something fun (so, it's not even about subject matter here).  He's just not present on the world wide web, people.  That doesn't mean that what I'm doing and saying here is behind his back...or untrue...or 'slander' to him (because it's true for one thing...and he sees and approves it all beforehand anyway).  He's reading this post AND agreeing with it before I post it.  Is that really shocking?  I'm baffled...

Ladies and gentlemen, I don't know how your marriages work, but I don't talk about Joel behind his back, or post things about him without him knowing and approving of it.  That's not healthy...and I don't do it (and never have; I also have never posted anything about him or our situation as a Facebook status except to point to these blog posts).  It's interesting to me that people would actually think that I have typed out 11 blog posts (this makes 12) about our marriage without Joel even knowing or seeing or him being unaware of all of these details.  How distant are husbands and wives these days that they would even think that was a possibility?  Did our marriage really stink for the past 3 years?  Yes.  But it wasn't because I went behind his back and talked about him or accused him of things that he didn't do.  Let that sink in real good, k?  :)  

Also, and this is another subject...but, I think that this line of questioning (as Joel got in the message above) really points to some double standards in our society (and the world basically).  I heard a quote in a TV show the other day that I actually rewound to hear again.  It said, "A man always calls a woman 'crazy' when he gets caught with his pants down."  It literally made me laugh...because of how true it is.

While I am one who always gives the benefit of the doubt...who has always tried to prove cliches and stereotypes untrue...who has always gone against those and said, no...it can't be that ---> unfortunately, I've lived too long and had too many experiences to be able to explain this away... 

As so often happens in our society, a woman is seen as 'emotional' or 'irrational' or 'unreasonable' instead of just 'truthful.'  It doesn't matter what her track record is with being truthful in the past.  It doesn't matter how logical she's always been.  It doesn't matter if she's a woman of few words or not.  It doesn't matter how very practical and grounded she's always been.  She is so often, very simply put, not believed.  And she gets those labels from the first sentence in this paragraph.  A man who blogs about being neglected in his marriage and abuse against him sneaking its way in is so often heralded as 'brave' in telling his story.  Why would anyone question him, after all?  Men are so 'logical' and not 'overcome by their emotions.'  Not so for a woman...and she is seen as 'stirring up trouble' and 'slandering her husband' and not 'standing by her man.'  Therefore, being victimized all over again. 

And, as we've seen here, when she is trying to tell her story truthfully about how her husband (who has admitted to this in his very own post) has messed up majorly...when that husband himself has even admitted to it all himself in his own blog post...and they are trying to tell the story so that others who can relate (and there are many) can learn from them and not feel alone ---> who is it that gets the support and concern and messages saying, 'are you ok?'  Oh, just the one who did the damage in the first place. 

That is a problem.  Within our society.  Within our churches.  Within our theology.  Within our marriages. 

One of the things that has happened through all of this is this:  I resolve to fight until my dying day against this ideology.  For myself.  For my daughters.  For my son.  It is not right.  And I will fight it until my very last breath.

Hopefully this blog post will clear up any questions you all still might have...as far as Joel...as far as why we're telling our story here. 

Next time we'll keep going with the timeline of what happened...we'll talk about our time apart.  We'll talk about how it is that we came back together.  And then get into some other things that happened at the hands of others.  Marital problems are hard enough...but when others start contributing to the problems, it makes it that much harder.  But, we'll save that all for later. 

Sunday, February 22, 2015

Joel. Michawn. {Part 11 - Time to Live Apart}

We left off with February 2014 in the last post, Part 10 (if you're new here and want to start with Part 1, go here).  I'll elaborate on more that was going on in February 2014...that I didn't even know about or find out about until a month later...and other things that I didn't find out about until 7 months later.  Things that floored me even more.  But, I'll get to that in another few posts.

The same sorts of things with Joel just continued to happen.  Joel did postpone his trip to Brazil.  But, only after talking and talking and talking about it...and me asking and asking and asking him to.  It was ridiculous.  I'm still floored by how he acted...and thankfully, now he is too.  (again...more on that later)

But, yes...it was just more and more of the same after that. 

We tried counselor #3 in March/April...that didn't work out too well.  I don't think he was used to counseling via internet and he basically left us high and dry during a pretty critical time for about 3 weeks without a word from him.  Turns out that he was traveling and thought that he had told us, but came home to see his email to us unsent.  Anyway...we had moved on already.  Counselor #3 didn't work out.

That brought us to counselors #4 and #5 in May.  May was an interesting time.  I had come to a place where I knew I needed to make some changes.  I could no longer live with the stress of our marriage.  But, nothing was changing within my marriage...so the stress wasn't going away that way.  When I say that I could no longer live with it, I literally mean that I had to make some changes...my health was majorly being affected.  I had gone to my primary care person in March and done some tests...gotten the results back on April 1st...and definite changes needed to be made as far as stressors (and abusive/oppressive behavior) in my marriage.  Those changes were never made living as we were...so, in May, I realized I had to make some decisions. 

Here's the deal...everybody always likes to say things like 'well, you're only responsible for you' or 'you can only answer for yourself' or 'you have to do the right things no matter what is going on around you.' And that is all fine and good, but it's not true.  lol.  Those lines of 'wisdom' can be true...especially when you are single...but, when you are literally yoked to another person, that can prove to be just basically impossible.  Do I need to show you that picture again? 

See that?  When you are yoked, you can't always just 'do what you know to be right,' can you?  You can't just 'be responsible for you.'  Every turn of your head involves someone else.  Everything you do or want to do is affected by someone else.  Everything that person does affects you.  So, the 'wise' cliches and tips...those don't really hold water in this situation. 

So...something had to be done. 

The unfortunate truth is that when he was gone to Brazil, life was much easier.  We got into a pattern, a routine.  My ‘oppressor’ was gone.  After that, I knew that I had to move forward in all the ways that I could, with or without him.  But, as time went on, moving forward in all the healthy ways was proving to be impossible with him (since nothing was changing).  Around the time he was gone to Brazil and after he got back, I knew that things were better without him here.  But, I did not have peace at all about living apart. 

In May, that peace came.  It was completely undeniable.  And I knew that we had to do it.  Joel did not want to.  But, the course of our lives was no longer going to be determined by one person in this marriage.  It was time and I knew it.  We (I) wrote this newsletter to send out to everyone before he moved out, but we never sent it out.  Because of a couple of reasons, we knew that it wasn't the right thing to do.  I talked about it in the very first post of this series.  I said that I might eventually share it here.  And here it is. 
Dear Supporters and Friends,

Thank you so very much for 'hanging in there' with us through the very challenging time we've had for the past couple of years.  You have continued to give to us, pray for us, and support us without question, even with such uncertainty.

There has been a new development that we need to inform you of.  As we've mentioned in the past in several different newsletters, the difficult circumstances of the past three years that have come our way have really taken a toll on our marriage.  The good news is that we have *finally* found some great counselors to help us wade through all that has developed and where to go from here.  The bad news is that we are far from 'out of the woods' in our relationship difficulties.  In fact, it's quite the opposite.  Because sometimes you have to go even further into the forest and deal with things there before you can come out of those woods. 

And sometimes going further into that forest involves taking what some would consider drastic steps.  For us, who have been walking through this for 2+ years, it doesn't seem drastic.  It just seems like the most logical next step on our road to recovery.  Sometimes space and time are needed...and the ability to grab onto perspective.  And, in order for us to do that right now in our marriage, we are no longer going to be living together for a time. 

Please do understand that this is not a step toward divorce, but rather a step toward healing in our case.  We don't want to worry you.  We don't want to upset you.  But we do want to be completely honest and upfront with you.  Please though...don't freak out.  :)  Just pray. 

Although it is a necessary step, it is not one that we take lightly.  We pray that this will provide that time, space, and perspective that we are needing...and in a timely manner. 

We will keep you posted...and let you know when it is time (Lord-willing) for us to go back to the country, people, and work that we love. 

In the meantime, thank you so much for continuing to support us and pray for us.  Our family definitely needs it as we take steps to become unified again. 

We love you guys,
Michawn <><
Joel moved out mid-May.  

And I'll leave off here for today.  More about our story and what happened after that next time. 

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Joel. Michawn. {Part 10 - More of the Timeline}

Today is our anniversary.  I have very mixed feelings about days like today now.  A feeling of disgust is what rises to the top to be honest.  It's all...tainted now.  "I love you" he says.  But, really?  Really do you love someone and treat them this way?  Is that what love looks like?  We're not talking about leaving the toilet seat up...we're talking about years of mistreatment here.  Years.  And while we have learned the source of that mistreatment (to an extent), he's still the one who did it.  And while he's repentant, it's not something that easily gets worked through.  Not only do effects of that mistreatment still exist, but also remnants of the attitudes and beliefs that brought about that mistreatment.  There's a lot to work through.  And so...it's tainted.  As we move forward and continue to go toward the light in this and away from the darkness, will that taintedness fade?  I sure hope so.  That is definitely the goal.  But for now...tainted.  Happy tainted anniversary. 

In the last post we started to go through basically a timeline of what happened.  We left off with June 2013.  Today we pick back up. 

Please remember Joel's post...and that he's already admitted to all of this.  Knowing what he knows now, it is painful for him to revisit this...and he is appalled by his actions.  This isn't me badmouthing him.  This is just us elaborating on the details...so that a clear picture of what happened can be seen...and then deeper things that we've learned from all of this can be discussed in the very near future.  Again though...don't despise the set up.  This part is needed.

It gives you a clear picture of what happened.  It also gives you a very clear picture of how incredibly hard this all was for me...and I was in it all alone.  Completely alone.  Hard stuff.

This is all a slightly revised (to protect others) version of part of a timeline I was asked to write out for a counselor (the 3rd one we tried).  The timeline was written in March 2014.

July 2013 - Just a lot of strain.  We hadn’t been working as a team (which was such an odd feeling and odd thing since we had been such a very strong unified team before all of this) for over a year at this point.  But, now we were also just no longer friends at all.  We went on a little weekend trip with my mom and brothers, their wives, and our nephew (that I wasn’t really loving the idea of given our circumstances, but it was something that I had told Joel for years that I wish could happen someday…that I’d love to get to know my sisters-in-law better and it had been since my baby brother was a toddler since we’d taken a family vacation…and he was now 21 years old).  So, although it involved a short drive and suitcases, it was still relatively close and not super taxing (my mom had made all arrangements for where we would stay, it was comfortable and a fun, relaxing weekend…not stressing)…so we agreed to go.  The weekend was full of us just kind of avoiding each other…and many times when he could’ve stepped up and again, tried to be a protecting, caring husband to me, but he did not.  At one point, he stayed at the condo to put the kids down for the night while I went grocery shopping by myself.  He was supposed to stay up and wait for my text that I was back (as everyone else was asleep already) and then come help me get things in.  Instead of being alert for me, he fell asleep and his phone dropped on the floor (and no, this wasn't just an accident...this was the pattern).  And I was left in the dark, lonely, someone-could-grab-me-and-rape-me-and-kill-me parking lot to unload the car and make my way up to the room.  Just another example of him not coming through for me.  Of course, he said ‘I’m sorry’ later (the next morning when he finally woke up), but he says that a lot…and nothing ever changes.  So, it doesn’t mean much.  
Since things had been so bad for so long, we thought of counseling of course.  But for a long while, there was just nobody anywhere around that we knew of for that.  Finally I remembered a man we had met that might could fit the bill.  I was, at that time, a mix of very fragile and very done.  I knew that this man would be kind and gentle.  So, at the end of July, we started seeing him.  He’s a pastor…not a certified counselor/therapist.  But, he had had tons of experience.    

August 2013 - Yet by mid-August, he had told us that unfortunately, he really had no idea what to do with us.  He focused mainly on the travel…and how Joel didn’t need to mention travel to me.  And also pressured me to give him a time of when Joel could start asking me to travel again…which of course, I had no idea how long it would take to heal.  I’m no counselor of course, but all of that is just focusing on the symptoms.  It wasn’t about the travel alone.  It was about my husband’s lack of willingness to lay that aside for the sake of his struggling wife and family.  And the attitude and heart that came with that (Joel's lack of the heart of a warrior husband protecting his wounded wife).  That was never addressed…just treating the symptom of travel with a prescription of No Travel.

So we left him and we tried another person…a licensed counselor who is a part of a Christian counseling center.  This lady was not kind.  She treated me like I was a loser and told me some of my actions and some of the things I hold very dear ‘seemed silly’ (her words…actual quote) within the first 10 minutes.  I found out later that Joel had sent her an email before we went that majorly tainted her view of me (although she shouldn’t have let it).  So, we never went back to her.  I came home, showered, crawled up in my bed and cried…and knew that I would not ‘put myself out there’ with another just random counselor that either didn’t know us from Adam and didn’t care about us, or didn’t come highly recommended by someone we know for our specific situation.

Also, later in August, Joel supposedly got a revelation through a dream about us…he woke me up crying and just wanted to hold me and was saying that he was so sorry…that he understood, etc.  It was time to send out another newsletter, so we included the good news about the turn of events in our newsletter (Joel’s life-altering revelation dream; we weren’t completely forthcoming in our newsletter…but people knew we had had a rough year or two already, and with this newsletter, we let them know that that included some marital issues).  And we were friends again for a while.  But it was soon apparent that that ‘revelation’ wasn’t quite life-altering after all.  He told me later that that dream didn’t tell him anything specific…but that he had just lost me in his dream and he woke up knowing that he didn’t want to lose me in real life.  But apparently he didn’t want that enough to start listening to me, believing me, taking care of me, and protecting me.  Because he didn’t start doing any of those things.  
September 2013 -  Again he asked me about traveling to that training that we’re supposed to go to.  He would say to that, ‘Well, people are asking…and I have to give them an answer.’  To which I would say, ‘Yes, you should give them an answer.  You should say what you should’ve said at the beginning of the summer of 2012…that we have no answers, that we won’t be traveling or speaking at churches or visiting, that we won’t know our future plans until we have had a time of rest and recovery, healing and refocusing on our family for a time.’ Also, at the beginning of Sept., about a week after he said he had had that revelation, he started prodding me…’we have to talk…we need to make some plans for our future.’  ?!?  Again, his excuse was that people were asking.  And I’m sure they were, esp. given the fact that we had been in the states for over a year at that point.  But, the problem was that nothing (except the physical acquiring of our house) had been accomplished.  What should have been accomplished (our recovery) within that first year or less of our time in the states hadn’t even been believed to have been a need in my husband’s eyes.  We were far from making any kinds of decisions about the future.  And he needed to be honest about that.  First things first. 

October 2013 -
After August, we were on again/off again friends again.  We were still hanging out sometimes just doing fun things…going to a movie, eating out, watching something on TV.  These times were definitely fewer and fewer as time went on, but they were happening a bit in the fall.  When he said things like ‘I want to take care of you…I just don’t know what you’re wanting, how you see that being’ I have always answered the same way…and it really just kind of boils down to being a team again…working as a team (which includes listening to each other, believing each other, taking care of each other, and protecting each other).  When you see your team member down and hurt, you don’t just ignore them and keep playing the game.  The game is stopped…you stop.  And you go see about your teammate.  You help them in any way you can.  You work together…you are in sync.  We used to be a championship team…and now we’re not a team at all. 

That was illustrated in real life very well in October at my daughter’s birthday party.  I’m usually in charge of the bulk of the birthday party, as most moms are.  I ask the child what they want as far as theme and then we come up with fun things to do around that.  Joel has no responsibilities except to help me whenever I need it.  Usually his part is games, but we weren’t doing games this time, we were making birdfeeders and painting birdhouses.  So I had gotten everything together (big chore) and was going to show and explain to the kids what to do, while Joel passed things out and distributed supplies/paint, etc.  Yet both times, he was not there.  He wasn’t up and ready, willing to help.  He was sitting down on the side, and made it very evident that he was irritated that he had to get up to help me when I asked him to come help.  I had to call him each time I needed him…he wasn’t there, actively participating with me, being a team player like he usually is at the birthday parties.  And he was annoyed when I asked him to be.  Later when the party was winding down, a swarm of yellow jackets started getting all over the food.  I started taking things in the house and asked Joel if he could help me.  Instead of just helping to get it all in really quickly, he argued with me saying that it was fine…’why do we have to take it in, it’s fine.’ Lots of resistance, and no teamwork.  Not at all what our parties have always been like, otherwise I wouldn’t think anything of it.  And Joel thinks that I made a mountain out of a molehill about this.  He says that I wouldn’t used to have gotten mad about this.  But, not true…this would’ve made me mad had he done it before…but he didn’t.  Our birthday parties have always flowed so well and were not stressful because we worked as a team.  Not this time.  He was totally uninterested in the party and in helping me.  Besides all of that, because of all that has happened in the past couple of years (and has not stopped), I and our marriage are already in a fragile state.  In order to remedy that, he should be even more attentive and more eager to help.  Yet he is less.  It was a relatively small occurrence within the setting of a relatively small event (a birthday party) that just gave a clear picture of what our marriage has turned into in the big scheme of things. 

November 2013 -
He asked about traveling again…to spend a few weeks with his family.  He even threatened to just take the kids and leave.  He didn’t understand why on earth that would bother me…for him and the kids to go.  If I didn’t want to travel, fine…he would go with the kids and spend Thanksgiving with his family.  Again…absolutely not getting it.  This continued all of November.

December 2013 - We found out we were pregnant the first weekend of December.  It was a weird time because we were super happy about the baby, but also just in a yucky place in our marriage/life.  But…we had to pull it together…because we had to return to Brazil by the summer so baby could be born in Brazil (all for reasons concerning birthing options and preferring my doctor there in Brazil…weird I know, considering the C-section rate in Brazil…but it’s true).

I started spotting on Christmas day…just a tiny bit of blood, but enough to really concern me of course.  The day after Christmas, we went for an ultrasound to see if baby was still alive (I was 7 ½ weeks along at that point).  On the way to see if our baby was dead or not, right before we were there, right as I was my most anxious of course, Joel brought up and wanted to discuss our plans for our trip to Brazil in February.  Completely and totally insensitive and ridiculous.  I was appalled.  And another ‘cord‘ broke (the cords tying our hearts together…there weren’t many left at this point).  Baby was still alive…and all looked normal.

January 2014 - I had been working on revamping our homeschool all of December and until mid-January.  A TON of work and research on my part.  Totally new homeschool curriculum that I had to put together myself.  And I was so excited to start it the 3rd week of January.  We started that Monday…and Monday and Tuesday were awesome!  Loved being back in the swing of things.  The kids were excited.  I was excited.  That Wednesday was a scheduled day off of homeschool…and I went to see my midwife for the first time (I was 11 weeks 2 days at this point).  I found out that afternoon that there was no longer a heartbeat.  According to measurements, it looked as if baby had actually died around 8 ½ weeks…although medically I was still considered to be having a miscarriage at 11 weeks 2 days…almost 2nd trimester.  There’s more risk the further along you are.

I texted Joel to let him know.  And luckily I texted him right back to tell him not to tell anyone…because he was about to tell the kids.  WITHOUT me.  Another cord broken.

I began the process of physically miscarrying the baby and remains of the pregnancy the next day, a Thursday…started bleeding.  By the weekend I was also cramping pretty hard.  On Monday afternoon the cramps got worse and worse and then late afternoon/early evening I literally spent over 2 hours in actual labor (although the physical pain was much, much worse than any labors of my live children were…and I have homebirths…no pain medication at all), finally giving birth to a completely intact sac.  Everything about it was just like a normal labor and delivery (except the pain…much worse and completely constant…no breaks between contractions, just one long contraction)…I threw up right before I knew it was time to push, I got in very warm water when it was time, I felt the urge to push, etc….just like my other births.  I had just, very literally, given birth.  I was weak and shaky afterward…I got my shower and lay down on my bed.  I had endured over 2 hours of excruciating pain (seriously like nothing I’ve ever experienced), plus days of cramps…I had just given birth to the remains of my baby and was exhausted.  Joel was there for the very last part of it.  He helped me some.  So he knew what it had been like.  About an hour after I lay down, he came in and asked me if I could put the kids down for the night while he took a shower.  Wow.  Another cord.  
I kept the remains so that I could show the kids…I’m huge on being very honest with my kids (on their level of course) and educating them…teaching them about life and death, plus the miracle of biology and life that can be seen in the gift of the remains we had (I got to show them the sac and how it has more than one layer so as to protect baby, etc. etc.; did you know that I’m also a childbirth educator…so of course that plus being a nurse plus just a driving need to be honest and open...it was a neat thing to experience with them).  Plus…for them to see where the baby that had died had lived…might afford some closure for them.  Not that they were needing it necessarily, but I wanted to give them as much information and opportunity for closure as possible…and they really enjoyed looking at it all and even picking it up and exploring it with their fingers.  After we got done, I just impromptu said something about burying the remains with the kids outside.  Joel just made a face and said that he’d prefer to just put it in the trash.  Another cord.  The kids and I went outside (Joel followed).  I was glad to have remains from this miscarriage…even more symbolic closure (like a funeral) and treating it more like the death of an actual person, as it was…instead of flushing the remains down the toilet or putting it in the trash or something.  

Another thing that happened was that before we found out about baby and the miscarriage, we had scheduled our son’s birthday party for Feb. 1st at the nearest Chuck E. Cheese (an hour and a half away).  As I had just gone through birth that Monday, had buried the remains of our baby on Wednesday, and was still recovering physically, I decided that that Saturday was not a good day to try to have a birthday party.  Birthday parties take a TON out of you even when everything has been peachy king for months/years on end.  Things had been far from peachy king, for years.  But, just that week I had had an almost 2nd trimester miscarriage!!  That frustrated Joel...that I wanted to postpone the party.  Why couldn’t we still have it?, Joel asked (like he had anything to do with it in the first place...it's not like he was going to get a gift and make sure all Grady's little friends knew about it and get a cake and party favors, etc. etc. etc.).  Wasn’t it (the miscarriage) all done?, he asked.  (flashback to April 2011...2nd miscarriage when he had asked the same sort of question)  Another cord.    
February 2014 - I gave birth to our deceased baby on January 27th.  We buried it on the 29th.  I was scheduled to go back to the midwife to check things out on the 5th of February…to see if everything had cleared out on its own, or if I would need a D&C (surgery to remove any possible remains that might be left in my uterus).  Joel, however, was scheduled to leave on the 4th to go to Brazil for 2 ½ weeks (the time had come that we had to move all of our things out of our rental house and turn it over to the owner).  Before the miscarriage, I also was scheduled to go to Brazil in February…to meet him down there for a few days, to get housing ironed out for when we would be going back in the summer in order to have this baby in August.  When I found out that there was no heartbeat, I just immediately knew that it would change the traveling plans.  That I probably wouldn’t be going at all…and that Joel would postpone.  To my shock and disbelief, Joel had no such plans to postpone his trip.  Hadn’t even crossed his mind.  I had literally given birth to our dead baby a week before on the 12 week marker.  I hadn’t even stopped bleeding yet.  Didn’t know whether I’d need surgery or not.  And he was planning to leave the country.  He fought with me and resisted changing his dates…then wanted to just postpone leaving 2 days later.  I was just beginning the physical recovery, with so many questions up in the air, and he was griping about having to change his traveling plans.  That was something that he was supposed to do, on his own accord.  He should’ve seen his wife, who had already been struggling with no help for years now, who was at the height of struggle now, and said, ‘yeah…there’s no way I’m going to Brazil right now.  I’ll postpone my trip until I know that my wife is all better physically.” None of that. 
And that was really just the last cord.   
We'll discuss more information that was sent to counselors next time...and lead into how it came to be that we lived apart last summer.  

Saturday, February 14, 2015

Joel. Michawn. {Part 9 - The Beginning of the End}

Before we approached the subjects of egalitarianism/complementarianism, counsel, and what the church looks like in all of this, in Part 5 (the post about yokes) I had gotten to a certain part in the story of what happened to Joel and me.  I'm going to pick back up there now.  You can go back to that post and review if you don't remember the details.

We talked about how the last year in Brazil was really hard and we (I esp.) were in dire need of a break...a recovery time...a respite.  Then we got back to the states (May 2012) and that was not even almost a possibility for the first 6 months.  We finally got into a house of our own in October and were able to start unpacking our suitcases for the first time since the previous May (that's right...May - October living out of suitcases).  I thought that we were going to do the work of getting the house set up (which meant finding the furniture we needed through garage sales, etc. and pulling stuff out of storage)...a LOT of work.  Then we'd also be going through the holidays (which included going to all of the special events that we could, as this would be our one Thanksgiving and Christmas here for a few more years).  Then...finally I was hoping sometime in January (2013) we would be able to come back to 'normal human' pace...and even finally get our DOWN TIME so that we could recover and heal.  Which was even more needed now given the May 2012 - December 2012 of complete and utter chaos and craziness.  Oh how my soul needed healing.  Oh how my body needed healing. 

And here's where we pick up with more of the story.

Please remember Joel's post...and that he's already admitted to all of this.  Knowing what he knows now, it is painful for him to revisit this...and he is appalled by his actions.  This isn't me badmouthing him.  This is just us elaborating on the details...so that a clear picture of what happened can be seen...and then deeper things that we've learned from all of this can be discussed in the very near future.  Again though...don't despise the set up.  This part is needed.

This is a slightly revised (to protect the names of others) version of part of a timeline I was asked to write out for a counselor (the 3rd one we tried).  The timeline was written in March 2014.
January 2013 - We had no major plans until April.  I was excited about the 3 months that I hoped would be some down time for us.  We continued to work on the house, but lots had been done and it was live-able now.  I hoped to get back to homeschooling the kids, getting back on track with health…just generally settling in to our house and our lives a bit.  Those hopes were quickly dashed.  1) Joel scheduled to speak at two churches without talking to me about it first.  And a change of plans also came up…2) instead of going to a conference in Florida in April, he asked if we could go in February instead.  I reluctantly said ok.  3) Then someone called and asked if we could go to a missions conference (again requiring packing up and staying somewhere else) also in February.  And thus, my excitement about our three months of downtime was gone. 

February 2013 - Prep for travel, travel (when you have 4 small children, travel is never just this simple ‘throw some clothes in a bag and go’…esp. for the mother who actually does all the planning and packing, etc.), a few days of recovery and trying to get back into a routine after travel…and that was our February. 

March 2013 - We got settled into a good routine.  Health-wise (eating right and exercising) we had a whopping three good weeks.  Smh, lol...ridiculous that that was something to get excited about...that that was the longest amount of down time we had.  During those three weeks though, there were still things coming at me…we started receiving emails from others at the beginning of March about our travel plans for April.  But, I just ignored those emails and let Joel handle that…I had to.  Also, Joel told me that he had gotten a revelation about us and that things were going to change (they didn’t).

April 2013 - We drove from Louisiana to Pennsylvania to visit family and participate in a family member’s wedding.  Although it is always great to see family, it was a completely miserable trip.  Partly because Joel and I were no longer functioning as a team…and hadn’t been for a long time.  Partly because of the living arrangements while there.  Partly because of the transition times while there (the trip involved ‘a move’ in the middle…just more hassle).  Not to mention the 24 hour driving time, each way.  Just incredibly exhausting to an already exhausted and pushed-to-the-limit family.  Has travel always been that way?  No.  Obviously not.  But, at this point, with all of the stressful things that had happened in our lives in the past year and a half at that point (since the summer of 2011 in Brazil), and all the stress and ‘uncaringness’ I was feeling from my husband at that point…it was exhausting to make a trip like this. 

May 2013 -
We got back from that trip and knew that ‘no more’…we could NOT travel anymore, we HAD to have some down time.  Because of how miserable the trip to PA had been, Joel was starting to finally realize that something had to be done differently.  And May was pretty uneventful as far as Joel pushing us to do things.  But, May did bring something else.  We got called about a set of 2 year old triplets who needed a home urgently.  This brought along two things with it…1) sadness and more anger about our situation…if we weren’t in the situation we were in (because of some major root issues deeply rooted in Joel)…if we had just been able to retreat and recover/heal and then move on, we would’ve been back in Brazil by then.  And those triplets would have been a perfect addition to our family.  2) re-evaluation.  Although stressful and not perfect timing it seemed…were these babies worth it to return to Brazil ASAP to rescue?  Could we turn things around for their sake?  We ultimately pursued it, but they needed more ‘urgency’ than we could provide, even though we were talking about packing up ASAP and heading back the following week.  It was just another sad blow though.  We missed out, on TRIPLETS, because we were here, stuck in our crap. 
June 2013 - Joel asked me about going to a training that we need to go to (interesting how just the month before we had finally seen and realized that traveling was NOT good for us anymore...that we NEEDED some down time; but, here it was happening again).  This training happens every few months…and each and every time, Joel brings it up and asks me if we can travel to go to it…no matter what is going on with us.  Again…non-stop.  No retreat allowed. 

Also in June, Joel had a training that he really wanted to go to.  I practically begged him to not go.  He went anyway.  He just left.  That had never happened in our marriage…where one of us just does something even though the other person doesn’t comply (he had bought plane tickets to that other big event secretly and planned to do that, but he hadn’t in the end; and he had planned visits/speaking to churches that winter without asking me, but that didn’t involve him leaving).  He left.  Something happened in me after that.  And we were no longer friends.
And this is when things started to really change.  We were about a year and a half in...and it had been over a year since we had come back to the states.  This is when I finally came to the realization that this wasn't something that Joel was just going to 'snap out of.'  This was something that would require a miracle to fix. 

Next time we will continue with the timeline. 

Saturday, February 07, 2015

Joel. Michawn. {Part 8 - Burdens}

Joel wrote his post.  And you might not ever hear from him here again to be honest.  For him to write that post was not fun at all.  And it might surprise you to know that it was not because of the subject matter…but because it involved writing.  Ha.  He hates to write.  It’s not his thing.  It takes him forever and as he says, “he’s not the wordsmith of the family.”  Writing for him is like pulling his own teeth.  Kind of like making up fictional bedtime stories is for me.  I am seriously horrible at that.  Ugh.  I hate it.  lol.  But he’s great at that.  So guess what?  He’s the storyteller in the family.  I’m the writer. 

We all have our things…our own set of limitations.  And, our own set of gifts and talents.  But, I just wanted to let you know that even though Joel might not appear here and might not write himself (and is hardly ever present on any social media ever…just not his thing), he reads everything I write, we discuss it, and he agrees and approves before I ever publish anything.  Just thought I’d throw that in here to reassure you that this isn’t just a ‘me’ series, even though it’s mostly me doing the actual writing.  What I’m writing about is our experience…our actions and thoughts and ideas and beliefs…mine and Joel’s. 

My last post struck quite the chord (it also provides links to all parts of this series).  So many people can relate to struggles in life…and even more specifically, marital struggles in particular.  I mean, of course it’s hard to live with another person who was raised in another family and with other ways of thinking about things and doing things, etc.  So…that’s every marriage.  Then there are the marriages where something major has happened.  Some kind of major upheaval.  Some kind of major shift.  Some kind of trauma…or a series of seemingly never-ending traumas.  Even abuse in some cases.  Those are the marriages like ours.  In fact, we’ve experienced all four of those in the past 3 years…major upheaval, major shift, the never-ending traumas, and, yes…let’s just say it…abuse.

The abuse I’m speaking of is not physical.  And it wasn’t even necessarily intentionally done, but was deemed correct based on a set of beliefs.  But...the abuse that occurred was very real and was a result of a belief system that puts one person in power…and leaves the other with none. 

That might seem quite extreme for us to say.  Some of you might feel very uncomfortable with that sort of language being assigned to what happened.  Some of you might think, ‘Now that’s just taking it a little too far.  Get a grip.  Get over yourself.’

I can tell you very honestly and with all past events in my life proving my case that…I am absolutely not a person who makes mountains out of molehills.  I’m the one who tries to do the opposite…making molehills out of mountains.  So, when I say these things, I am not exaggerating.  You will learn this as we move forward in our story, the extent of which will depend on what specifics I choose to divulge.  But, I am not making more of it than should be made, I promise.  I am being honest. 

So…many of you can relate…to at least some of these specific things…and definitely to just struggles in marriage in general. 

I heard from many of you…many of you sending very sweet encouraging words of how God has done a miracle in your own marriage.  Some of you who are still holding on.  Some of you focusing on another subject…the specific subject brought up in the last post...the subject of others…the subject of the church at large in times like these. 

One friend sent a very stirring message that I completely related to.  She also happens to be a fellow missionary.  And has sadly experienced these things she speaks of firsthand recently.  Some of the things she said were just so very true…

"It's so upsetting to be so disappointed with those you call your good friends or wise counsel.”

"As if people aren't already going through enough to then have insensitive others making more issues.”

"...it feels worse when those people you chose to trust don't help things. And for some people this makes them want to keep everything more private for longer.”

And that's what I want to talk more about today.  I agree wholeheartedly with these things she said…and I have no anger.  But, I do have just a real and sobering realization of what people are really like, what the church is really like, how the world really works. 

But…the TRUTH is that we’re supposed to bear each other’s burdens.  Is that not the case?  Yet, I don’t see that really happening in the church at large.  People (and surprisingly, oftentimes the people closest to you) get very uncomfortable with people with problems.  People get very uncomfortable with people who have struggles…esp. for a long extended period of time.  Or, in some cases, they just get impatient.  It’s hard for the church (that is, the people of the church…your brothers and sisters) to hang in there with those people sometimes…even though all that is needed is an email every now and then to say, ‘hey…we see you, we are praying for you, we don’t want to come off as nosy, but we want you to know that we always care…please feel free to talk to me about anything anytime…no matter what it is, i won’t be judge-y…if you don’t want to talk, i understand…but know that i’m fighting for and with you in prayer.’

One of the things I’ve heard as an explanation as to why people don’t reach out to others is that they are so overwhelmed with their own junk.  They are, themselves, going through a very hard time…and they don’t feel like they can help anyone else.  They don’t feel like they have anything to give. 

To that I say again…’bear each other’s burdens.’  Bear each other’s burdens.  That’s what it says.  It doesn’t say, ‘Be sure to wait until you don’t have any burdens…then you can help to bear someone else’s burdens.’  That is a lie our culture has bought into.  And that has to stop.

I didn’t share anything with anybody for over a year that this was all going on.  Because I thought sure there would, in the end, be nothing ongoing to share.  I thought sure that Joel just wasn’t ‘getting it’ (how he was prioritizing everything else over me…how he was using his ‘power’ to oppress, etc.) and that one day soon it would just click and all make sense for him.  And it would stop.  And we'd move forward...and share about the craziness that had happened, but not be too damaged by it.  It would just be a big bump in the road that caused us to be slowed down a bit, but not the huge cavern that it actually did turn into that caused us to completely halt.  I thought that one day soon it would click for him and it'd be over and we'd move on.  But, that one day soon never came.  So, after over a year had passed (a year and a half actually), I began to open up to some of the people who had reached out to me.  Four people in fact…and only these four.  This was before we had even sent out our newsletter that told everyone that we were having struggles and in marriage counseling (we sent that out in Aug. 2013). 

Of these four who had reached out to me and who I confided in…three of them had ‘been there’ in one way or another. 

One in particular was (and is) still in the thick of it...and has been for longer than me.  Yet, she reached out. 

I get not feeling like you can reach out to someone you hardly know when you are overwhelmed with your own problems.  You don’t quite have the energy to be dealing with your own junk and get to know someone completely new to try to help and encourage them too.  Getting to know someone new can take a lot of energy.  Sometimes God might call you to do that…but, that’s not what I’m talking about here.

To hear that someone you have an already deep and profound relationship with…a real heart friendship…someone you have a real history with...to hear that they are having trouble and not reach out (in a non-judgey, helpful way)?  How can that be? 

You might be walking through the most damaging circumstances of your life, the hardest of times, the most confusing and horrible that you could ever imagine.  But...you are still called to love (that is, show love, be love).  You are still called to reach out to your friends.  You are still called to bear each other’s burdens.

And not only for others’ sake…for yours too. 

There have been countless times during these three long years that I reached out to someone, a friend, who I heard was hurting.  Why?  Yes, because we’re to bear each other’s burdens.  And yes, because that’s the way this whole ‘family of God’ thing is supposed to work.  And yes, because that’s what friendship means.  But also...because it helps me. 

Almost all of us are hurting and disappointed and damaged/being damaged in one way or another.  Bearing each other’s burdens makes us stronger.  We can build each other up.  We can help each other with what we may have learned in our ongoing process…we can get help from someone further down the road than us. 

I’m not talking about a whinefest…at ALL.  I’m just talking about sharing our stories with one another…maybe not the whole world wide web like we’re doing.  But bearing each other’s burdens with a close friend…hearing of someone who is hurting and meeting them, no matter what is going on in your own life.  ‘Misery loves company’…that’s often a phrase used in a negative way.  But, it’s true…and can be seen in a positive light.  Again, not in order to moan and complain and have pity parties.  But, to encourage each other, to build each other up, to spur each other on towards good things and help and hope. 

And just to clarify…bearing each other’s burdens does not at all look like what Job’s friends did.  Not at all.  And we’ll talk about the subject of passing judgment very soon.  Because, for many, just as my friend said…it keeps them silent, so bearing each other’s burdens is not a possibility for them.  We’ll talk more about that soon though.

But...let’s do better at this ‘bearing each other’s burdens’ thing, shall we?  The church needs definite reform in that area.  We know better.  Let's do better.