Only by Grace
My whole life I thought I sort of knew reality. Today marks one month since David submitted his resignation to the family business. My family's business. Oddly, it also marks his first day of work at his new job. A job in a completely different environment in every way imaginable. A job that was so clearly orchestrated by God. The timing of which was certainly not ours, and certainly did not go down as we had hoped. But the timing of which God knew was best.
What transpired after David's resignation illuminated a lifetime of memories seen through an entirely incorrect lens. My eyes have been opened to a completely new perspective and I see everything differently. I am grateful for this. It also hurts more than anything I have ever experienced in my life. The grief is intense. Mourning what I thought I knew. Realizing what I thought I knew was actually a warped version of reality, looking through a distorted lens. Going no contact with a number of family members. Many of which we moved to Michigan to be near. Being misunderstood, misrepresented.
My feelings and emotions are all over the place. Grief is not a straight, paved road. The end is not in sight. I have a feeling there will not be complete relief from grief until I am united with Jesus in eternity. It will not always be so heavy. Even day to day I find relief. But words, circumstances, situations, holidays, people... there are so many triggers that rip it open again. And again. And again. And so I keep pressing on and into my Father God, the only unalterable constant in my life. Who has made a way for me, for David, for our girls, through this mess. Has provided so richly. Has covered us with grace and favor. It the deepest darkness, there is so much light.
We spent two weeks at home following the event that was the catalyst for my awakening. The two hardest weeks of grief. December 31 I went to the doctor in order to get direction on exercises to strengthen my neck and alleviate neck pain. The last time I was at the doctor was June 12, 2019 and I weighed a happy, healthy 145 pounds at four months post partum. On December 31, 2019 I weighed in at 123 pounds. I dropped 22 pounds in six months, the bulk of which melted off during the month of December due to toxic stress and physical sickness. 123 is less than I weighed pre-pregnancy. It is a weight I never planned to get to. I intend to gain back at least 10 of those 22 pounds this year.
Self care is essential on the road to recovery. I scheduled dates with friends the week after Christmas. Life giving conversations with women God has placed in my life and I am so grateful for. Additionally I asked my mom if we could schedule an impromptu visit to Tucson, Arizona where she lives. The answer was yes, of course. And so we hopped on a plane and flew down to Phoenix and then drove two hours across the desert to Tucson.
Sunshine and cacti. Tucson is what I expected Austin to be. But Austin was much more green, much less desert. Tucson is an alien landscape sprouted with saguaro cacti and surrounded by beige mountains contrasted against a vibrant blue sky. It is stunning. Magical, even.
It was just what we needed. My mom and bonus dad cared for us and loved on us. I call Michael, my step-dad, my "bonus dad" now. Because that is what he is. I am so grateful for him. He and my mom fed us and clothed us. Their home was our home. It was a retreat. Warm and welcoming, ready for little ones to play and explore. We enjoyed sunshine and conversations. Picking lemons and oranges from their fruit trees. Making fresh frozen strawberry lemonade. Hikes. A trip to the zoo. Meals out. Shopping. And also just hanging around the house and yard enjoying the beauty around us. My mom and bonus dad accept and appreciate my children for who they are. Something that was so clear to me when they were with us in Michigan celebrating Christmas on the Friday David resigned. My children adore them. David and I were able to go on several dates and Juni was happy to stay back. If you know my Juni, you know this is quite a rare occurrence! When I told Bina we had two days left towards the end of our visit, she said "I don't want two days! I want more!"
When we arrived home on January 14, Bina said her one big wish was to go back to their home. Mine too, sweet girl. Mine too. I spent my 34th birthday there on January 13 and now I hope maybe this can be a birthday tradition, to spend a week at my mom's in Tucson.
It is such a beautiful thing, to be loved and accepted just the way we are. Unconditionally. Shame shuts us down. Grace wakes us up. Allows us to grow, to become the best versions of ourselves. I realized this last month that my mom is the one person in my life who has always loved me unconditionally. My parents were divorced 20 years ago. My relationship with my mom has been tumultuous at times. We have had some great misunderstandings. Rupture of relationship. And we have always had repair. I feel like we were finally able to repair completely, in a way we have not been able to in the past, following the events of the end of December. I am so grateful for my mom and my bonus dad. I am grateful they found each other and have committed to working together through challenges in marriage and in life.
I love my two girls so much. I am so grateful I get to be their mom. That God has entrusted them to me and David for the time being. I am so grateful I have the opportunity to stay home with them. I was afraid of losing this opportunity if David did not stay at the family business. And in the end I decided better that I go back to work than we continue on the path we were on. But God in his grace opened an opportunity for David that would allow us to remain as we are -- me at home with our girls. What a kind a gracious Father I have. I do not know why he allowed me this grace. I did nothing to deserve it. And yet he in his kindness gave it to me.
I am grateful to my mom for doing what she had to do to get out of an abusive situation and seek healing and restoration for herself. I never understood how much of a sacrifice she made for me until now. I never understood that she has always loved me unconditionally until now. And that makes me angry and sad. Why did it take me this long to realize? Why am I only seeing this now? It is okay to have those questions, those frustrations. To grieve the loss of what could have been if only my eyes had been open to this perspective earlier. But the reality is I was not ready before. My eyes have been slowly but surely opened. God in his grace has allowed things to unfold exactly as they have. This is not the way things were meant to be and that is why my soul cries out, "BUT WHY."
We live in a broken world marred by sin. And yet all of humanity is created in the image of God. Created to know and represent him. To reflect his image. Each human being has value and is worthy of love because each human being is made in the image of God. We reflect his image in so many ways, whether we serve God or not. I see God most clearly in creativity. Beauty. Art. Music. The creation of life: conception, pregnancy, and childbirth. We can choose to pursue God, or we can choose to pursue sin. Each decision we make either illuminates the image of God in us or hides it. The choices we make are our own, and the choices we make to illuminate the image of God in us are only by grace. It seems like it cannot be true, right? But it is. My God is bigger than my comprehension. I do not want to serve a God I can completely comprehend. Then he would be no more wise than me.
I am grateful for the work my mom did to allow me the opportunity to do the work I am doing. There are so many other women before me, before my mom, who have done this work. I am calling these women "brave women." This work is hard. It is scary. Brave means "ready to face and endure danger or pain; showing courage." Leaving abusive relationships, whether physical or emotional or both, is terrifying. It takes bravery. One must be ready to face and endure danger or pain. One must break the silence. Did you know that a woman will leave a relationship approximately seven times before she leaves for good? And survivors are in the most danger immediately after leaving an abusive relationship. Some may return to their abuser to protect their lives.
I got three tattoos before we left for Tucson. The first is "my beloved" in Hebrew written in David's handwriting underneath my right collar bone. The second is "brave" written in my sister's handwriting underneath my left collar bone. The third is Joel 2:25 "I will restore to you the years the locust has eaten" in my mom's handwriting on my left forearm. I never thought I would get a tattoo, let alone three. I felt like I had been reborn after my eyes were open to this new perspective of my family. I know other family members have a different perspective, or a variation of my experience. I wanted to commemorate this transformation with permanent writing on my body. To remind me of who I am: beloved. Brave. And to remind me of the promise God has given me: that he is going to make it better than it was before. The sentiment of Joel 2:25.
In Joel 2:25, God is the one who brought the locusts as punishment for Israel's sin against him. God allowed the suffering. Today I read in the book of Hebrews that God disciplines those he loves and that we are to endure hardship as discipline (Hebrews 12: 6-7). God in his grace has allowed this hardship in my life. Because he loves me. Does that blow your mind? Because it blows mine. And I can see how that can be totally twisted into some convoluted mess. Yet I see so clearly the kindness of God in all of it. I have to continually bring myself back to this truth because my mind wanders into bitterness, resentment, anger. I want justice my way. God does not assure me of that. He is the judge, not me. And thank God for that because I would surely be rotting in hell myself if I were the judge! Broken sinner that I am!
Oh the grace of God. The beautiful, wonderful grace of God. It is all by grace. How often I have to return to his grace knowing that I am nothing in and of myself and I am alive only in my Father God. He has been so kind and gracious to us. He has been so patient. So loving. All I can do is praise him. Thank him for the suffering, the hardship, knowing that it is his discipline for my good because he loves me. Knowing that he is refining me more into his image. It hurts like hell. I just want it to be over. I kick and scream and cry and revolt. And he is patient. He waits with me for me to calm down. He gathers me into his arms. Wraps me up tight in his love and grace and kindness. And he continues his work. And I surrender to him because I know he is good. He is a good, good Father. The only perfect Father. And I am secure in his love.