Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Joel. Michawn. {Part 29 - It's Here. FINALLY!!}

The end of April and May are always so busy.  Time got away from me here.

Plus, I've told you that April was...just wow.  I'm going to do a whole little series on the weeks in April eventually.  There's so much to say about April.  But...

I started thinking about the time of year recently.

At this exact time a year ago, Joel was moving out.  Praise God He did a work...and months like April, as hard as April was, happened.  Because we're back.  And better than ever having ridded our lives of things and beliefs and people who would divide us.

At this exact time three years ago, we were packing up our house and packing up our bags and packing up our lives in many ways to board a plane back to the states to stay for about a year and a half we suspected.

Never in a million years did we expect to still be here, 3 years and counting later.

Never in a million years did we expect that our marriage would fall apart during that time.

Never in a million years did we expect basically any of the things that have happened since May 2012.

But, at this time 3 years ago, after having such a horrible year in Brazil, as we were packing up our house and bags and lives, the thing that I was packing up for...the thing that I was holding on for (with a slipping grip)...was that sweet rest that was on the other side.

That rest that I needed with every single little ounce in me.

That break from our lifestyle, that entering into a 'normal' life for just a little while, that pause.

There were several objectives for that time:
--we needed to reconnect as a family...really come back together as a unified unit.
--we needed to recuperate from all that had happened that year (Spring 2011-Spring 2012)
--we needed to just break from an agenda...a calendar of what others had for us to do...and have our own time for a bit
--we needed to refocus...on us, on our family, on our health

I've shared a basic timeline from May 2012 to the present already here...full of really difficult things. But, I haven't actually written out what had happened before that...what Spring 2011-Spring 2012 involved...and why a retreat from the front lines was already soooo needed at that point.

It started with a death in our family...a miscarriage (my 2nd miscarriage) of a sweet wee one in my womb.  That was in April 2011.

In June, I traveled for 2 weeks alone with the kids back to the states for a wedding.  It was a great time, but traveling alone internationally with 4 littles (they were 7, 6, 4 1/2, and 3 at that time) for 2 weeks isn't something that is completely non-stressful.

In July 2011 we started getting told that we might have to leave our house.  Our landlords told us that they might need our house for someone else.  It was very back and forth...and it continued to be that way until February 2012.  So, for 7 months we were in limbo about whether we'd be able to stay in our house...and were looking for another place to live that whole time just in case.  Pretty miserable, unstable way to live.

May - October 2011, we were hoping to get pregnant again...but, there was so much travel during that season that it just did not happen.  I had traveled with the kids to that wedding in the states in June.  All the other months (except one), Joel was traveling during 'optimal times for procreation.'  At the end of July he left for 10 days, came back home for about 3 days, and then left again for a 24 day trip, lasting the rest of August and getting back in September.  October was our last chance because we had to plan ahead...and we knew that we would be traveling back for furlough sometime the next year and baby would have to be born before that.  At the last minute during the October 'prime dates,' he was asked to travel again.  And that was it for more babies until after we got back from furlough. That was sad for us because we felt constrained by travel and an unstable lifestyle...yet again.

Also in October we had visitors come and stay a few days.  It was a great visit.  But, again...even great things add stress.

November and December 2011...the holidays were just exceptionally hard that year.  Obviously we had been away from family and familiarity many times before during the holidays, so it wasn't that alone.  I think it was just the cumulative effect of the 8-9 months leading up to that.  And, as I said, we were still on high alert that we might have to move out of our house, and were looking for a place to live.  Plus, the baby that we had lost in the spring would have been born at the beginning of December.  It was just...a really tough holiday season.

At the beginning of January 2012, we found out about the conflicting date of the family event that was on the same date as the Watermelon Festival.  That's been written about already.  But, it was a pretty devastating occurrence...because then we were forced to deal with that...and it was a given that there would be some conflict (although I never imagined to what extent that would be taken by others).

Also at the end of January, we had more visitors.  Again, even great things (these fun friends visiting us) are not without stress.  And this visit included traveling by airline to another state in Brazil to visit some other missionaries in a more remote place.  And leaving our kids (the first time we'd left them all overnight with someone non-family).

At the beginning of February, we traveled for a weekend retreat with our mission organization, Asas de Socorro.  It was a very basic camp where we stayed and it rained the whole time (mud everywhere and a backed up shower, ha, fun times).  Just the kind of 'retreat' we needed...ergghh.  With everything else the previous months:  #notrelaxing #alreadyalmostattheendofmyrope

Also that month, we found out about the sibling group that we really prayed about and thought long and hard about adopting.  They were perfect, except they were older than we had planned to adopt. In March, we traveled down to meet them.  We wanted to meet them anonymously, but that wasn't what was set up for us there.  So hard.  That made everything about 100 times harder.  Everything was great, they were awesome, incredible kids...but, God said no.  I wrote about that really, really devastating weekend here.  It took me a long time to get over that (I'm still crying just writing about it difficult, so heartbreaking).

And April and May brought preparing to leave our lives there in Brazil for the next year and a half or so...deciding what to live without for the next year a half, packing luggage, packing up the house for someone else to live there, etc. you see what Spring 2011-Spring 2012 held for us.  Now do you understand why a break, a retreat from battle, a real respite was needed?  I love the definition of respite:  a delay or cessation for a time, especially of anything distressing or trying; an interval of relief.  Relief!!  It was needed.  It is still needed...and now, about 3 times more than it was needed then!!  :)

A few weeks ago, a friend of mine introduced me to something called The Holmes and Rahe Stress Scale.  It is a tool that lists life events.  Each life event has a different 'weight' and by clicking on it, this tool can 'quantify' the amount of stress in your life...and how likely that stress is to cause illness. It is said that a score over 300 indicates that you have a high to very high risk of becoming ill in the near future.  In fact, the actual high to very high risk score is 300-600...they even give a top ceiling.

I used their tool.  I busted right through that ceiling.  My score, for the past 3 years straight, has been 845.

Again, see the need for a respite?

I have so much more to say as far as our story.  So much more to write about...things specific to our story, but using those things specific to our story to look at the big picture.  To see what it means for society/the church at large.  Things like counseling, how the church responds to situations like we've walked through, what is considered acceptable behavior (that is not acceptable behavior), gender issues, theology, missions, etc. etc.  So much more to discuss.

But now, it's time.  It's over three years past due.  It's time for that rest.

Joel and I are back...finally.  All the horrificness of the end, it was what was needed to put us solidly back together as one again.  And that had to happen before the rest and respite could come.

I finished what I wanted to finish as far as posts go, for now.  I was finally able to speak out, to tell my side of the story (as well as Joel's and others'), to clear things up, to answer questions often posed to us, to let it be known what had happened to me (and why life for us had become so different than before).  I was able to relate that to a bigger picture...and address things like theological issues, true love and care, forgiveness.  I have so much more to say here.


Rest time has come.

That time of pulling back, as a unified couple and family, and refocusing.  It's needed now more than ever.  I mean...

Who are we now?  The things of the past 4+ years (since Spring 2011) have changed us.  In good ways...but, there is change.  Who are we?  What do we believe?  Where do we go from here?  What are our lives to look like?

We have lots of refocusing and reconnecting to do.  We have lots of recuperation to do from the past 4+ years.  We have lots of healing to do...emotionally, mentally, physically, spiritually.  We had all of that to do already exactly 3 years ago.  So you can imagine just how much it is needed now.  4+ years of painful, harmful, damaging destruction.

Yes, it is so needed.

And ohmyword!, I am so glad it is finally here!!!!!!

I've been waiting soooooo long for this.  I've been hanging on for this for soooo long.

I will be back to finish what I started here.  I will probably write periodically all during my rest will probably continue to be quite therapeutic.  But, I won't actually be posting.  I will just post it all periodically after our time of rest and recuperation.

When will this rest be over?  Well, since around Christmas, we've said that we were going to take this year and not commit to anything.  We were taking this year for us.  So, we have done that locally and physically.  And that will continue.  Then we will reevaluate.

But, as far as blogging here, I'm not sure.  It could be that I start posting again around August or September.  I might wait until the end of the year.  I might wait even longer.  We'll just have to see.

I will finish our story though.  There is much more to say about what has happened and what that means, how that translates in the big picture of our society and world.  Until then...


My soul rest is here.

(Insert an incredibly genuine, HUUUUUGGGGEEE sigh of relief)

Wednesday, May 06, 2015

Joel. Michawn. {Part 28 - Forgiveness, 2}

Whew...April was hard, y'all.  Daaaaaaang.  If you only knew. Deeeeeeep breath.  Praise the Lord it's over. is better.  You'll hear all about it here in time.  About forgiveness though...

Joel and I had come back together on Labor Day.  We had entered into correspondence with Joel's family who had believed and done and said some incredibly divisive and detrimental things about me/us, esp. since January 2012.  We worked with them until the end of October/beginning of November to try to get them to understand that the only way to reconcile would be to discuss all of these things with that we could clear things up, be really honest, talk about what really happened, and start to really see things for what they were and hopefully through those talks, come back together.  They refused to discuss anything with me.

When something like this has been done to you...when you've been incredibly mistreated for so long...there is no way to 'move on' healthily without actually talking about it and getting to the bottom of things.  Any moving on done without really discussing things and really seeing the truth of what happened would only entail sweeping things under the rug.  The dirt and nastiness would still be there. Nothing would have been cleaned.  Nothing would have been made pure again.

That's not healthy.  At all.  I realize that that is the way some people do it.  But, that's wrong.  And those problems, that dirt, that was never actually dealt with and swept will always come up will always be made visible again.  Because it wasn't really ever cleaned in the first place.

The healthy way to deal with conflict is to clean your way through it. Cleaning...who loves cleaning? Who loves sweeping?  Not many people do.  But, we do it.  Why?  Because we know that after we push through the work of cleaning, we will love the results.  A clean house. Enjoyable. Pleasant.

There are lots of things in life that aren't fun.  They aren't easy.  They aren't pleasant.  They are hard. We push through them and do them anyway.  Because once we push through the non-fun, non-easy, unpleasant, hard parts...the results are worth it.  And we can sit back, enjoy, and be pleased with a job well done.

It happens in push through...because the process of being there and literally pushing a person into life is just incredibly indescribable.  The Brazilians call childbirth 'dar a luz' which literally means 'to give light.' How awesome that we get to give light to life, ladies?!?  I'll never get over that miracle that we get to participate in. It's hard...and painful.  But, that privilege...amazing. So we do it.  We know that holding that baby for the first time is going to be just immeasurably worth it and filled with more joy than you've ever felt, each time you do it.  

We push through.

Jesus did it when he allowed the soldiers to take Him and do with Him what they pleased...because He did it for 'the joy that was set before Him'...the joy of fulfilling His Father's plan, of going back to be at His right hand, of giving us a way to come to Him and be in a close, intimate relationship with us here on earth and for all of eternity.

He did his fully human form, registering every bit of pain and suffering.  He pushed through.

So, we do things that are unpleasant.  Because they are right.  Because they bring about the right, good, pleasant results.

When Joel and I were so very far apart, I knew that either 1) we would end in divorce or 2) Joel would a) realize what he had done, b) repent, and c) we would be able to work together to become unified again.  In order for those things to happen, there were lots of discussions that had to take place...during a), b), and c).  Lots of dialogue.

I don't even enjoy talking all that much.  You know that whole 'on average a woman uses a certain amount of words and a man uses much less' thing?  If that's true, apparently I'm a man.  Within our relationship, Joel talks more than I do...we're just different.  I'm much more of a 'get to the point' person...and that just usually involves less words.  But...

In explaining things to others...or, for instance, in dealing with conflict...oftentimes, many words are needed.

Thankfully, #2 came about, and the divorce of #1 did not happen. Until last week, I really thought that #1 might still be a possibility. But, I really think that #2 is going to work out.  It took a while though. A LOT of discussion.  A lot of heart-sharing.  A lot of empathy and understanding and patience and long-suffering and you know...there's a list of some specific words that 'it took.'  What are known as the fruits of the Spirit:  Love, Joy, Peace, Patience, Kindness, Goodness, Faithfulness, Gentleness, and Self-Control.  And then a whole list of other things, found where?  You guessed it...1 Corinthians 13.    

Many times this passage is used in referencing romantic love and marriage...this is quoted often at weddings.  But, it is, after all, just about love in general.  About how we are to treat others.  All others.

Love is patient.

Love is kind.

It does not envy.

It does not boast.

It is not proud.

It does not dishonor others.

It is not self-seeking.

It is not easily angered.

It keeps no record of wrongs.

Love does not delight in evil, but rejoices with the truth.

It always protects.

Always trusts.

Always hopes.

Always perseveres.

Love never fails.

These things don't describe the way I was treated for the past 3 years. And they don't describe the way Joel and I were both treated after we came back together.  In fact, just the opposite.

Some of you have sadly seen some of that firsthand on Facebook.

Loving others (the verb...showing it...demonstrating it by demonstrating all of these traits of love) isn't easy sometimes.  But, it doesn't mean you are not supposed to do it.  And through loving them (the verb), you might actually find out that it's not hard after all.  You might even find out that many of the things you thought were true about them are actually not the case at all.

Had those family members loved me well, all of the things done over the course of the past 3 years would not have happened.  Had they loved us well after we came back together, those discussions they refused to have with us would have never been a problem for them...and they would have found out that many of the things they thought were true were actually not the case at all. Had they loved us well after they refused to do the work of 'cleaning' and trying to reach reconciliation, after we set boundaries and distanced ourselves because of that refusal to work through things, they would have respected us and the boundaries we set instead of constantly crossing lines and trespassing into our lives, disrupting them, and derailing what we have been trying to get back on track since September.

When you have destructive people like that in your lives, the same options apply.  1) It either ends in 'divorce' or they 2) a) realize what they've done, b) repent, and c) working together to become 'unified' again can happen.  #2 did not happen for us...and the window of opportunity has left for it to happen.  Because it is crucial to our marriage for that to be so.  When #2 doesn't happen, #1 is what you're left with.

What does that mean exactly?  It means you cut yourself free from that un-health.  Some people view that as 'forgiveness.'  I just view it as a 'releasing.'  You release them, you release yourself.  You cut the ties that bind.  You tried. You did your part.  It didn't work.  You're free.

Is it more ideal to have true repentance and then a true forgiveness and then a true reconciliation (no fake sweeping it under the rug stuff)? Yes.  But, it's just not always possible.  Because we just don't live in the Garden of Eden.

But, thank God we can still be free.  Do your part...keep in line with the Fruits of the Spirit and what love truly is (that 1 Cor. 13 list).  Do what you can to foster a relationship and reconciliation.  But, then...if that doesn't work...wish them well, dust your feet of them, and be on your way.  Be free.

I want to re-iterate:
-An apology does not = repentance.
-True repentance is the only thing that will work if there is really going to be a real 'cleaning of house.'
-Sometimes that true repentance only comes through talking things out and being very, very honest.
-After true repentance, the only thing that will bring about true reconciliation is that same willingness to be very, very honest.

I heard this quote a while back.  I love it.

"A good man apologizes for the mistakes of the past, but a great man corrects them."

Nobody becomes that great man who wants to correct his mistakes without true repentance.  And with true repentance comes empathy...really seeing someone where they are.  Of course, if you are the offender, you are the reason that person is there where they are! Empathy is HUGE!  Here's a great video to explain what true empathy is.  If you don't have empathy, get it!

"Don't just pretend to love others.  Really love them.  Love each other with genuine affection, and take delight in honoring each other.  When God's people are in need, be ready to help them.  Rejoice with those who rejoice and weep with those who weep." (Romans 12)

True repentance.  True love.  That is what is needed when wronged, as I was, so greatly.  If it's not available to you...'forgiveness' looks like walking away.  That's what it looks like for us in our situation.

But if it is available to you (that true repentance and true love acted out), forgive away and enjoy that clean house and with time, that reconciliation!  It will take time to clean...but, have faith and walk in diligence.  Prayerfully your offender who you are forgiving is full of empathy and continued repentance and a willingness to meet you and do what it takes.  Stand firm.  Your sigh of relief and ability to sit back and relax in that clean house with your loved ones will come.

Either way, though...whether #1 or #2 is your reality...there is freedom and wholeness in Jesus, whether it be through forgiveness or release.

I will leave you with a few articles that I've found interesting.  They are worth the read.  I think they are really good...and hopefully they will help some of you too.  These are the articles, and a small excerpt from each.

Forgiveness Without Repentance? - There is no Scripture that requires forgiveness apart from repentance.

What You Need to Know About Forgiveness - Seeking forgiveness is not apologizing. There is nothing in the Bible about apologizing. Apologizing is the world’s substitute for forgiveness, and it doesn’t get the job done.

What to Do After a Betrayal - While the Bible is clear that we are always to forgive people who harm us, forgiveness doesn’t necessarily mean that we go back to relating as if nothing ever happened. A severe offense or a pattern of abusive behavior breaks trust, and a relationship can’t be close unless trust is rebuilt. The Bible gives a very practical example of a godly man in an abusive relationship who had a forgiving heart but also kept his distance. The relationship I’m referring to is David and King Saul.

The Difference Between a Sin and a Mistake - Yes, we all make mistakes. But more importantly, we all sin. We need to understand the difference between the two and be willing to call it what it is. Until we do, we can’t really repair what has been broken.  What can we do to preserve this distinction between sins and mistakes?  5 actions are given in this article.

Grace Vs. Enabling - Grace gives room to grow, mature and heal. Grace does not give permission to continue in sin. Enabling allows sin and misbehavior to go unchallenged.

What I'm Learning About Forgiveness - Forgiveness and reconciliation aren't synonymous.

Ten Reasons to Dismiss Someone From Your Life - I was raised to forgive, to mend friendships, to try to understand others' points of view, to empathize. None of that has changed.  I’ve simply learned to control “when” and “how” I do that.  I certainly won’t spend more time with you and reward your negative behavior in my life.  You’re not allowed to cause our family pain. I won’t let you.