I met my husband at a football game my freshman year of high school. His looks immediately threw me for a loop. Over the next several months, we began to spend more time together with friends & share hunting trips with cousins. Inevitably, we fell in love. I also grew to love his family as my own. I adored their work ethic & clean way of living. I never saw anyone drink or smoke or wrestle with addiction. I never even heard them cuss. All I saw were smiles & how they enjoyed the very same outdoor activities that I did. It was like living the dream.
*Fast forward a few years into our marriage to include many babies.*
What I failed to see was a shady past lurking behind in the shadows. My dear husband's smiles & laughter hid his pain until it couldn't anymore. I began to question MANY red flags that arose. I even tried writing them letters & talked to them in hopes of reasoning. Reluctantly, he began to open up over time. Things weren't as perfect as they'd wanted it to seem. I'd learn little by little as he began to share. We separated ourselves financially from them after realizing that they were stealing money from us & had been in very large sums for at least 5 years. Thankfully, he somehow found his voice to speak out & call them out on it. We were almost fully repaid. How had I lived all of these years embracing with no idea that the one I had fallen for had lived his entire childhood reeked with cultish control, neglect, witnessing other children have sex on repeated occasions, child slave labor, emotional abuse, lack of education, some physical abuse, & daunting thoughts of suicide. I wish I could honestly say that knowledge paved a path straight into healing. The truth is, we had no idea how to begin to cope ourselves, must less effectively parent our little tribe as we deal with this turmoil. Our lives as we knew it disappeared & was replaced with so much pain & hurt from the very ones who were supposed to love us unconditionally.
To make matters worse, as we withdrew from everyone & everything in our attempts to heal, they picked us apart to others every chance they got. Many lies were told. More than that, their hateful words rang in our ears, "We've watched your ministry go down for years!...He's a liar out of the pits of hell!..." Hello common sense- young children with happy childhoods normally don't spend their thoughts contemplating suicide nor attempting it. Tragic memories don't just make themselves up. Others were involved that could vouch if they were only willing to face those demons as well. Lastly, bank statements most definitely don't lie. They will forever live to tell their obvious piece of the tale whether anyone wishes them away or not. Rather they have chosen to block out the bad or not, those memories remain. They know the truths of their choices in their hearts, minds, & souls.
We now own a small library of books on everything ranging from complex workbooks on PTSD to simple forgiveness. Originally, I was mad at God, but through it all, He has proven to be our refuge. I also have a real live life coach I adore from Atlanta. She has inspired me & kept me encouraged when I didn't think I could put another foot in front of the other. She has helped me to see Jesus in the painful circumstances. I cannot sing her praises enough. It's as if God disguised himself as her just for me. O, how He loves us so!
The obvious questions:
So, have we gotten it all figured out? Not even close!
Are we even beginning to heal? Sure. Some days are easier than others.
Are they invited to partake in our lives? No. Why? It's just too tragic still. They hardly ever even try unless they see us in public with the audience of their own friends. Then they seem to try to smother us in their fake hugs. When they do open their mouths, it is usually pointing more fingers & causing more pain. That is not acceptable, & we cannot allow that. They never reach out to say they love us, miss us, or how sorry they are. That's difficult. Forgiving someone that shows no remorse is complex, not cut & dry. We did reach out to them once during a family emergency. That slapped us right in the face.
Do we forgive? We make our very best efforts. God knows our hearts. We do not wish revenge or harm. We pray they find peace with God, themselves, & us before it's too late. Final breaths would seem more pressing without knowing you had done everything in your power to love.
Do we wish for complete reconciliation? Not sure that will ever be possible. We cannot ignore the facts & act like these events didn't take place. They could never be trusted with our precious children again under any circumstances.
What else do we do to cope? TRAVEL. When we travel, everything else seems to stay behind. We create new, fun memories with our children. We focus on our own family of 7 & enjoy each other immensely. We focus on our business. It's booming by the way. I'm so thankful for him making a great living doing something he absolutely loves. IMO, he has always worked so hard & deserves how his dreams are coming true.
Has anything good come out of all of this? Besides being self sufficient & enjoying loads of traveling, the way we view the world has changed. We realize that countless others are fighting battles that we cannot see. Many have faced situations that are so MUCH worse than ours. We are truly more grateful for our health, 5 happy children, & ordinary, every day things in life. We are no longer focused on having it all as most Americans are. For example, the kind of vehicle we drive & home we live in hold no esteem in comparison to how we can be a blessing to others. We believe in reaching out to the hurting. It's hard to focus on your own trauma when you are focused on helping another live through theirs. We cannot change the world, but we cannot let that stop us from what we can do. We can change the world of at least 1 person at a time.
Anything else? Listening has become a quality we embrace. We don't always have any answers. We cannot change the tides, but we can listen in confidence. Witnessing another trust you to bear their heart has no adequate words. We've seen circumstances change through prayer without any other action. Our faith has not only been questioned but also built stronger. I personally believe in my core that good things will always come home again. I believe in sunshine after the rain. We've kept close friends & even made new ones that we can depend on. That's the love I desire for us to soak up & scatter. May we be the light of Jesus someone sees.
Why on earth would we share such personal, traumatic experiences? Victims should never be shamed into quietly, hiding the truth no matter who the offenders were. For most, silence begins to eat at your soul from the inside out. It can cause more loneliness, fear, self loathing, confusion, anxiety, sadness, & depression. Sharing can promote a path to deeper healing & may even encourage another along the way.
Does he approve of me sharing? His story has become our story. We have finally found our voice. I would never, ever consider sharing without his approval. He read every word way before anyone else's eyes have. We both agree that we don't need anyone's approval or disapproval in our choosing to do so. We are not looking for sympathy either. Please join us in praying for our journey as we continue on ahead.
If you or someone you love has or is experiencing trauma, please reach out to someone for help. You are not alone. According to statistics, 60% of adults report experiencing abuse or other difficult family circumstances during childhood. Also, if someone you know is struggling, reach out to them. Suicide is the 2nd leading cause of death in ages 15-24 & over 120 people take their own life daily. You matter. Everyone matters. Love always. Find your voice. Share your story.