Thursday, October 29, 2009

Old habits are hard to break

        So I have to be completely honest, Jason and I have been struggling a little bit....ok we hit a wall in the past few weeks in our progress, but we're back on track. The truth is, when he came here and we were reunited and in the eye of the miracle we had a super strength motivation behind us. We knew there was a lot of hard work to be done and we were ready to face all of it, head on, to save our family, better ourselves, and take the leap of faith that God had called for us. 

We have accomplished SO much already.

Jason was blessed with a job about a month after we got here and had the opportunity to do some side work in the mean time. We've received the amazing opportunity to share our story through our church and through my writing to give others hope in the way God is working through us. Our family has the gift of staying with another family full of grace, encouragement, and wisdom. An amazing amount of very gracious people have helped us with monetary support, I can't tell you how thankful we are for that. We also are able to join various groups in the church, together and separately, that are a great way for us to meet other parents and married couples. These are just a few of the blessings that we have received. 

I'm can't express how grateful I am, but it still hasn't been easy. I would be lying if I said that we haven't wanted to pack it up and go home. The fears and worries we have are overwhelming at times. It is no surprise to me that our pastor has been talking a lot about Abraham and his obedience the past few Sundays. We miss our family and friends to a point that it's painful. We miss the people that we don't have to explain our actions or feelings to because they've known us for our whole life. We are social people and not knowing many people well has been hard especially being from a small town were you know exactly who to trust and who not to. Right now God has put us in a position to be surrounded by trustworthy people and I'm so thankful for that. 

This is just a new way of living for us here, everything is different than we we're used to. And there are so many road blocks financially that it makes it hard to focus on any other issue like, I don't know, our marriage. I'm sure just a few of you can relate.

The good news with that is we had a meeting yesterday at Dave Ramsey's office because we were accepted by they're ministry program to get some coaching. (Another amazing blessing)

We really just want to find a light at the end of the tunnel,  but it's hard to see at times when it seems so far off.  And we are scared and I'm trying very, VERY hard not to be but we have never dealt with so much at once and this is really hard and a lot of transition. We have gone through many rough times, but we never faced our problems. We used to let them build up to an eruption of horrible fighting about everything that had bothered us in the last month or so. 

I am happy to say that we have realized that we both just need to dig deeper within ourselves and together and seek harder, love more and remain strong in our faith in God's plan for us. Starting over at square one is really hard, but at least we will do it right this time. Our actions and the basis of our decisions before Christ became our sole influence had everything to do with how we fell apart. We wanted to blame every thing else for our mistakes but ourselves. We'd point the finger at our childhoods, or our lack of money, or a bottle, but never at our own choices. It ironically parallels with a story that is the root of the name of this site.

One of our favorite things to do together is fishing. On a sunny, July day in the summer of 2003, Jason and I had decided to spend the afternoon fishing. After about five hours in a little roe boat we had a full stringer of pan fish that we intended on eating for dinner that night. Out of nowhere, and I mean nowhere, the sky became black and the wind kicked up, strong enough to bow the trees that surround our little fishing hole. Rain began to pour so hard we couldn't tell if the water was coming from the sky or raising from the pond. We could see nothing. We where blinded. We started to row to the shore but the wind seemed to be rushing at us to hard to get anywhere. This struggle went on for about 45 min before......

We noticed that we hadn't pulled the anchor up!  

And then the real icing on the cake was that once Tweedle Dee and I got to shore (two minutes after pulling up the anchor) the entire stringer of fish had come untied from the boat in the chaos. Soaking wet, without dinner, there was nothing else to do but stand on the edge of that pond and laugh and embrace the story that we'd have to tell. 

The catch is that there is a much deeper meaning to that story that we now embrace, but we wish hadn't taken us so long to get. We were so so busy blaming the wind and rain of the storm that we couldn't see our own selves holding us back. Thus the innocent storm.

There is no more blaming of our past, and there is no circumstance of the present that will keep us from fighting the good fight. Our eyes are as open as our arms and we own our mistakes without excuse. We are learning from our mistakes and continuing down this beautiful path that God has given us no matter how hard it gets, we'll make it.
Blessings to you,




Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Dear Todd and Angie,

        Where do I even begin...I suppose thanking you for answering the phone when someone needed help would be a good place to start. Someone that you didn't know anything about, there whole story, or have any reason to care about. All you knew was there was a mother with two girls in Michigan that needed move to Tennessee, and I have come to realize that you chose to help me for the same reasons I chose to let you. 

         The Lord new what He was doing when He put me with you. I don't think that had it been anyone else, that my family would be together today. God knew that it was going to take an immense amount of strength and faith to guide his miracle into place.  You two have, and offer all that and more. Our hearts were nearly hardened, and I thought we had passed the point of any return. I didn't even know who I was anymore when I arrived in Tennessee. You have not just been so selfless to just take us in, pat us off and send us on our way, but you have gone above and beyond and followed through with what you started by getting involved, unconditionally. So thank you for your faith. You are both heavenly warriors, armed with love, and were willing to march through thorns to retrieve an unseen flower.  Thank you for asking me questions, thank you for sincerely wanting to know my heart. By answering and exploring my heart with you I was reminded of who I was. Thank you for loving me for who I am and not for who you thought I could be if I changed. 

        When I moved out of your home briefly in July you let me learn on my own that it was not in God's plan. When I was going to get a divorce you offered to go with me. When I wanted to stop the divorce you brought my husband to me against all reasoning from our horrible past, you had faith in us. It is your obedience in God and your irrevocable commitment to your faith in Jesus that our family is together today. You believed in His plan and taught me to do do the same without pressure. You set a pure and genuine example in your daily life. I think,  you didn't really know what a powerful message that you were and still are sending to me without the use of words. Much of your example has aided in my growing relationship with Christ. 

       I you may or may not realize this, I'm pretty sure you do, but I just want to thank you for knowing where to draw the line with me. You guys know exactly when to be there for me and exactly when leave me in my sorrows. If not for that, I would have been robbed of the deep connection that I have with God. The night's spent when you two knew I was in pain, but left me be are the nights that I was comforted so well in prayer. These times of grief that you didn't sit with me while I was in tears about my screwed up life were the ones that were the most healing in my faith. The nights when you were there are the times that I learned what faith and grace were through your words of wisdom. You help us help ourselves which is easier said than done and I want you to know that I acknowledge and appreciate that too. 
       Angie, since you have taught me how to sew, not only have I acquired a new skill but I am now able to put into words a visual for this experience.  I truly feel like it is God's hands guiding torn, flimsy fabric through a machine, creating something beautiful. We are mismatching pieces that have fallen apart and slowly with a lot of work, we are getting patched with vibrant colors and strong thread to last forever. He is working so lovingly and carefully and you two are the needle and thread complying with His every move until His work is done. Once again, thank you for your faith.

        Your hand in our redemption goes so much further than what has transpired in or marriage just these past few months. Our daughters futures have been rewritten as well as Jason and mine. Not only are they going to dodge the broken home upbringing but, our little girls are going to be raised in a house that makes Biblically based decisions on a day to day bases beyond the time that we are living with you. It is in my prayers that one day they will continue a legacy of unconditional love in the unity of the Body of Christ. After being on the receiving end of so many blessings through the generosity of others I know there will come a time when I hope we are able to give as much to others as you have given to us. Our counselor says you are putting treasures in heaven by by what you are doing for us, I want to do that too. It boggles my mind to think about how many other people you are helping besides us through your gifts in writing and music among other things.  There literately people's lives that you have touched that you will never meet and your kindness and good works will live on long beyond your earthly life. WOW, that is a fact, not an opinion. You have tended a harvest in my family as humble servants of God that will grow for generations. 

       That's mostly why I decided to write you a public letter. I wanted thank and encourage anyone else who loves others the same Godly way you love us. Also, there is always the possibility that some random person will read this and be inspired to maybe love someone else well despite their situation or personal choices in there life. Kind of like the paying it forward and having things come full circle. 

       Also, when it comes down to it, you are just really great friends. Not just for all you've done for us but because I am so happy and blessed that I even know both of you and your daughters. As individuals, your both hilarious and can tell stories as a couple and separately that crack me up. Working in a bar for years goes hand in hand with a lot of crazy stories and jokes, and you guys can tell a great story with more animation and character than I've ever heard. I love that you cease the day, and get the most out of life in your work and family, and I love that your not perfect and acknowledge that through all of it. I love that know matter how much praise you receive, you remain humble and that takes discipline. Your just people like everyone else and I'm thankful and glad to know two people that choose to live so well. 

     I could go on and on for days for all the things I'm thankful to you for. But you guys know how thankful we are about having somewhere to live and all the other things that you are doing for us. And I try to express my thanks by helping you as much as I can. I felt like I just needed to put into words the impact that you've had on my soul. I don't think there is any amount of house work that could cover that so I did my best to relay a big message of appreciation in a little letter. I  I love you guys,
Candice Hamilton



Wednesday, October 7, 2009

House of pain

Jason and I bought our house on December 5th, 2006, two days prior we had found out I was pregnant with our second child. I viewed the pregnancy as a blessing with the purchase of the house in the same week, Jason was overwhelmed and was less than excited about the timing. As I look back, I try not to beat my self up anymore about my lack consciousness of his anxiety over the amount of responsibility that he felt weighing and continually growing on his shoulders. He tried to tell me it was too much for us at once but didn't put up a strong fight because he new how much it meant to me.
Never the less, everything about the house seemed to be exactly what we wanted, two blocks out of town and within walking distance to work, in a quiet, kid friendly neighborhood. The house had a new furnace, it had been rewired, had a new water heater and been partially remodeled. Jason needed to be in walking distance because until two weeks ago, he has never had a driver's license. Not because he had one and lost it, but because he never wanted one. We also wanted a house that required some work we could do ourselves to make it our own. One thing that I also loved about it was that the yard was empty, not one flower. It was like a blank page to an artist for me to create and nurture a color scheme to my liking. I LOVE to garden. And so began, what I thought was going to be the beginning of the rest of our lives in this home, my nest. On December 4th of that year, we celebrated our 2nd wedding anniversary, amongst all the rest of the excitement, and that anniversary is the last one out of four that we've "celebrated".
I viewed the purchase of our house as living the dream, more than just a shelter. A place to invite friends and family, the foundation of our lives and memories of the growth of our family would be built in the walls 530 Jackson Court. Jason felt that way too to some extent, I think the stress of the mortgage payment and the freedom of owner ship went hand in hand for him. We hosted the family Christmas party for the first time that year. A lot of our things were still in boxes and the walls were still bare but as friends and family all gathered in our home, at our table, eating the meal for a army that I happily prepared all day, I my heart exploded with joy. It was a dream come true that most girls have, husband, wife, children, new life growing within me and out.

I had spent the spring and the first part of summer waddling around my new template planting flowers with Savannah at my side, plunging our hands in dirt that was ours and nourishing carefully placed, colorful life that I thought we would watch grow together for years. Evenings that Jason and I were both home were spent mulching and painting the garage together and then we'd built a fire to enjoy with each other and friends.

In June our car had taken a sudden dump and we bought a van. We knew that it was going to be tight to try and swing another payment on top of the mortgage with only having around $1500 a month to work with during the winter months. (money is seasonal in our part of Michigan, there is more to be made in the summer months than winter, even in the restaurant business) Against Jason's wishes we bought the van adding another $10,000 to our debt. That's when things really started to take a turn.

God blessed us with Madelynn Joy Hamilton on July 17, 2007. Up to this point Jason's drinking had stayed minimal compared to other seasons of his life. Winter that year hit us like a hammer financially and when I went back to work from maternity leave this time, I took all opposite shifts from him so we never needed sitters to save money. We never saw each other, and when we did, we usually spent our time fighting sometimes all night. One day I sat and thought about it and the way our schedule worked, we had 16 whole days off together a year. The further apart we wondered from each other the less we depended on each other and eventually depended of other things....none of which geared toward Christ. We made for an easy target for Satan and we let him have his nasty way for the rest of our time residing in our house together and a part.
Our home became a battle field for Jason and I and a playground for the devil. My prayer right now that as the house goes in to auction at the end of the month, that I may keep every memory of the blessings that God gave us through the storm and be at peace with taunting, painful memories of our sins. I am no longer a victim, Jason is no longer an addict and that is not going to be our house anymore.
It's a little scary because the foreclosure will put the nail in the coffin that we really can't go back even if we wanted too. I was feeling a little home sick yesterday, every now and then I get a little lonely or just miss going out and digging a hole in my yard because I can. I miss my family and my friends, (Chris, Amy and Sara I love you and miss the heck out of you chicks!) Usually when I feel this way, I turn to God or when I need prayer and really can't get it together, Angie because I know they will be there. Yesterday I went out on a limb, and conveyed my feelings to Jason and even allowed a few tears to fall. He listened and he comforted me when I needed it. For every piece of our past life good or bad that we are loosing, it seems that a blessing is bestowed. It's called pruning. Thank you Jesus. Many blessings to you and thank you for your continued prayers!

Friday, October 2, 2009

Simply Complicated

I have sat for a long time tonight trying to come up with a a interesting and articulate post that will fill who ever reads this with hope and inspiration. Honestly, blogging is completely new to me and this started when I agreed to do a guest post on Angie's blog and it turned into me having my own. I'm glad though because it gives me a way to "journal" while helping others (I hope).
The weekend that Jason arrived in Nashville, we attended an Al-anon convention and I stood up the second day he was here and told our story, and that was when I realized what an impact our story could have on people. After all was said, and the meeting was over, people swarmed Jason and I bearing tears of hope and encouragement, and shared very personal stories with us of their current situations. I will never forget the feeling that I had when for the first time in a very long time my husband and I had made a positive impact on others as one.

Sometimes it's hard though, I am surrounded by a monumental number gifted, and BRILLIANT people. It seems as if not one person that I have come in contact with here doesn't have an amazing talent in glorifying God. I, by no means am trying to say oh, poor me, stuck with all these talented people, what is a girl to do? ha ha. That's not it at all. I am BLESSED, beyond what I can write, but I am still just a small town girl that has a lot to learn. So, I listen and read and absorb as much as I can. I do much less talking and a lot more listening these days. Plus it's just plain intimidating at times.

I'm a little good at a whole bunch of things, but I'm not sure if I have a niche. If I do I'm sure the big man upstairs will let me know, and until then I'm totally content putting all of my focus on Him and my family. There is a beautiful line in the book Captivating, by John and Stasi Eldredge that talks about a woman feeling like she is "too much and never enough" at the same time that I love. I have always felt that way and I'm sure many of you have too.

The one thing that I am sure of is that I should keep writing because my husband and I embody God's redemption and grace, we truly are a miracle unfolding and I want to share His mighty work with all that I can because everyday that we are together let's someone who has the "see it to believe it" attitude, well, see it! Many blessings to all of you!

Thursday, September 24, 2009

In my Fathers Arms

I cannot express my appreciation towards everyone that has taken the time to read about my family and spent moments out of your day to send gracious words of encouragement. I have read every comment to date, so April #403, I promise I found time to read your words. It's never easy to hear of other women's struggles and pain, but to be reminded that I'm not the only one who has ever had deep feelings of guilt, shame and/or fear and prevailed makes one feel not so alone and even stronger. Thank you so much for all of your prayers, they are being heard and answered everyday.

I have to remind myself and Jason often that even on days when we feel like we're not getting anywhere, we accomplish a lot just by being still. On days that seem so unproductive because we are starting completely over and facing the all the hard issues we never addressed before, it's just the little things that need recognition. Today we were married, today our daughters were with both of their parents, today was one more day of sobriety, today we prayed together. Thank you Lord for today.

I am getting a second chance at much more than my marriage. I live in a house that is not my own, I eat food that I did not buy, and sleep in a bed that is not my own. How ironic it is that I am in such a vulnerable, fragile state and yet finally being taken care of and loved so well. The words father, dad, or daddy prior to my love story triggered feelings of sadness, pain and defensiveness. At times, I feel like a little girl speaking to her father with delight, thankful for beautiful day she had with him when I pray. God has placed me in a position where I can gain trust, where I am safe, dangling my feet and twirling my hair as sit with him and speak adoringly and freely without fear or rejection.

He is so attentive with our needs and provides at every time of great need. At night he sweetly kisses away all of my any of my worries or fears as I seek his word in scripture, and I sleep peacefully. I am safe, I am protected, I am guided, I am growing, and I am loved by my Father, my Abba. Like a child quieting down after a blind tantrum, my sobs have subsided, I shutter, and blink back my tears through a mantle of wet lashes and smile with joy as God harvests his fruit in me and my family.

I'd love to get connected and with anyone who needs a prayer or just wants to talk, feel free to email me!
Here are some pictures to smile about!

We LOVE flowers!!!

Savannah, looking every bit as sweet as she really is.

Chocolate, anyone?

Savannah drew this picture a few nights ago and it touched all of our hearts. From left to right it's Madelynn (with fuzzy hair if you look closely), Savannah, Me (with a green hat) Jason, Abby, Angie, Ellie, Todd, and Kate.


Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Under the influence of what?

      Hello my name is Candice Hamilton, many of you that follow Angie's blog have come to know me as "C".  I hope you all can bare with me as I try to share my story with you, for I am not nearly the writer or as spiritually mature as Angie. Writing this is a mere effort to try and reach the heart of someone or maybe even a handful  of people that can relate to my journey. A journey of  sadness and joys, losses and gains, lies and truth, and thankfully the grace and mercy of God.  I used to feel unsettled all the time, never at peace, always trying to fill a void with all the wrong things.  When the whole time all I needed was right there and everywhere. I allowed myself to be under the influence of so many other things; alcohol,  drugs, people, my own pain, I began to drown. After I reached what I decided was my rock bottom, I stood exposed, naked and ashamed, with arms open and asked God to forgive me,  to come into my heart and heal my broken spirit. It took loosing all I had to finally gain everything, and for that I am so thankful at this moment to have lost it all.  Now, under the influence of Jesus Christ, my head is above water and the picture is becoming more and more clear everyday.

                 My husband and I met on April 13, 2002 and were married in December of 2004. We met working at the same restaurant in a small town in Michigan where we both grew up and lived our whole life until now. When I met Jason he had a handful of tee-shirts, one pair of  ripped jeans, a guitar in one hand and a whiskey bottle in the other, what can I say....I was sold. It was his artistic and mysterious free spirit  that I was attracted to, accompanied with a beautiful, gentle soul that put my heart in a tail spin. The problem with he and I surfaced after alcohol  was thrown in the mix. Not only is my husband an alcoholic, but he has a terrible temper after he drinks as well. As the stresses of mortgage payment, car payment, working opposite shifts, a new baby on 07, and constant family drama became more and more suffocating our fighting became more and more violent. I couldn't take anymore, felt as if I had exhausted every option to try and save my marriage and filed for a divorce this past January in hopes to create a healthier environment for my children and myself. The months that followed are a blur of  chaos, I didn't know what a divorce really entailed. I'll never forget all the nights I spent pleading with God to forgive me for failing my marriage, wondering how a woman who was once a wife, walks through everyday no longer being a wife. While bearing a feeling of emptiness that consumed me it was all I could do during those months to get up some days. I tried to portray myself as doing better than I really was, throwing myself into a new relationship before grieving the death of my marriage or healing from all the traumatic instances that took place when Jason and I were at our worst.  I just was tired of everything being so hard, ready for a new start and wanted to live a fairy tale because I thought I deserved it after all I had been through. The months ahead would be the most scarring yet.  

               I moved out of my house January 1st into a tiny rental house until January 31st when Jason decided he didn't want it and he moved in an apartment two blocks down the road above the bar we both worked at. None of the bills were paid at our house and he, at this point, was refusing to see the kids because he was to sick and angry at me for seeing someone else. In march, I quit my job, I couldn't stand walking in and out of the same building Jason lived and worked to watch him kill himself drinking while refusing to see the girls. I went two months with no job and and no benefits and child support had not taken effect yet, to this day I'm not sure how I put food  on the table for the girls. I spent countless nights trying to sooth Savannah while she cried herself to sleep missing her daddy. The only thing I ever told her about her dad was that he was sick. I sold my wedding ring at a pawn shop for 1 hundred dollars to replace a tire on my van and sold various other things at pawn shops  to buy diapers and groceries.  Living this way really lowers a persons standards, I was brought down to a lower than low feeling I had never experienced. I lost every sense of right from wrong, and didn't know what "normal" or acceptable was anymore. My councilor has recently told me that when you sin, it gives the devil a license to your soul. That Satan wants to destroy your relationship with yourself, God and all those you love and I allowed every bit of that to happen. There are no words to describe just how conflicted and depressed I became.       
              It was mid June, just a few short months ago, that I walked into my christian counselors office, Kristen Hunsberger, grabbed a box of tissue looked at her and said that there was no hope for me, and that I was ready to give up. I will never forget the feeling of worthlessness that I had that day. I felt tainted, unclean and and so disgusted with myself I that I wanted out of my skin. My sense of self was gone, I could no longer do my job well, think straight or even love right. I had given away every piece of myself at such a cheap price, I had been dwindled down to nothing but a heart beat in the corner. So lost in my own pain and grief after months of a devastating divorce and countless disappointments all I could focus on were my failures. I was no longer that bubbly girl full of dreams and hope with a constant smile on my face accompanied with a loud familiar laugh to so many. I had reached a point that my friends, family, boyfriend and even soon to be ex husband (what a mess) were taking care of my children and I that week because I was so checked out. I thought my two sweet girls would be better off without me and deserved better than a mother like me. 
              As I explained all of this to Kristen, I remember waiting for her to agree with me because in my mind, my mistakes were to horrific for grace. Her response is still echoing in my mind to this day. She told me I had purpose, that I was a good person and that I would be redeemed through God's unconditional love.   I had a hard time believing her because everything I touched seemed to turn to black in the past year. Kristen and I agreed that I needed to leave Michigan, get out of the town and situation that I was in and start over in a healthier environment. She wanted me to do something radical and because at that point, that's what it was going to take. I really believe that if I would have stayed on the path I was on a that time, I would not be here today. 

Now, at the time that all this was going on I was seeing someone else, a military man that I had known since elementary school.  We will call him "A" . I would prefer to leave him out of this entirely, but it's to hard to explain all this without his mention. He was stationed at Fort Campbell so Tennessee was the ideal location for me to move to.  In addition to that, I had petitioned to the court in April to allow the girls and I to move to Tennessee.  It was granted by the court when Jason was defaulted due to the fact that he asked for no visitation and hadn't pursued seeing the girls for a month prior to court date. I'd like to add that I never looked at that day in the court room when I was petitioning to leave as a victory.  There is absolutely no victory in listening to the father of your children give up on the your kids. I sat listening to the one person who I thought loved our two girls as much as I did, the man who's eyes I looked into for strength as they came into this world, hoping he would fight for me and them. I sat shaking as he uttered every word, like he was waving a white flag, to sick or too uncaring to put his foot down. I wanted us to be worth fighting for. What he and no one else knew was that the whole time in court I gripped a picture in my trembling, sweaty palms of him holding our sweet Savannah the day we brought her home from the hospital in hopes that somewhere in him he would be able to not let go of that magical year we had after bringing her home, before it started to fall apart.  Even though they granted me permission to at that time, I chose to stay for numerous reasons, but mostly, even though I was pursuing a new relationship I couldn't quit let go.  When I told "A" that I needed to leave he offered to get an apartment where the girls and could move to into with him in Tennessee the  following weekend. I was so thankful and started packing. 

        Kristen had said after we had made our decision for me to leave that she would pursue a few other options for me in the mean time just in case I could not rely on "A" to provide a place for us to go. I received a call from her two days after my appointment and she said that I had the most incredible opportunity arise. She sounded so excited that she could have jumped through the phone. She explained that there was a family in Tennessee with children that were more than happy to let the girls and I to stay with them until I could get settled. I wasn't sure how to respond to the thought of moving in with strangers. She asked me if I ever read any blogs and I said no. Then she asked me if I ever heard of Selah and I said no, what's that. Kristen began desperately and I mean really trying to persuade me into moving in with Todd and Angie and I just couldn't  be talked into going to live with people that I didn't know. When I told my grandpa about it he thought they must be a cult and I had better not even think about it. (That cracks me up to think about him saying  that now) The evening after her phone call will be a memory instilled in my mind for as long as I live.  It was a beautiful, I was in the back yard playing with the girls, there was a soft breeze whisping through our hair. The three of us had dresses on because we had attended a wedding that afternoon. Savannah and Madelynn's giggles and angelic smiles while chasing around a little pink ball were my inspiration for looking up to multicolored sunset sky and thanking God for all I had and asking for guidance. An overwhelming, indescribable feeling came over me that I could not ignore. He was speaking to me. I felt paralyzed but safe. Once the moment passed I walked straight into the house and told "A", who was there for a visit, that I wanted to move in with those "people".  He looked at me like I was crazy. He told me I was nuts to take my girls and move in with strangers and took it very personal because that would mean that I would not be moving in with him. My response was, "It's not about you". 

                   That week I put my notice in at my job that I had just started, packed up as many of my things as I could, and never once felt the need to look into who Todd and Angie Smith were.  I told no one except my Mom and about three friends that I was leaving. I didn't wan t Jason to find out and try to stop me. I knew how bad his drinking had become and couldn't take any chances in him coming over obliterated which would lead to getting into another confrontation. Also, I knew if I saw him and he wasn't drunk and he asked me to stay, I don't think I would have had the courage or heart to take his children and leave. I spoke to Angie for the first time the day before I was supposed to leave. Her voice was soothing and  her encouraging words and stress free attitude brought comfort to me at such a stressful time. That night I woke up and to a gasping, blue Madelynn and raced her to the emergency room so she could receive a breathing treatment. I was there with her until 4a.m. and still have no explanation what happened. They thought it was Croup but she was fine the day before and fine the day after. The day I left, I had to finish packing, say goodbye to everything I knew and had planned to leave in the night so no one would see me go and so the girls could sleep on the way. On about seven ours of sleep in the last seventy-two, I left at 2:30 in the morning to make the nine hour drive.  As I drove out of town, leaving all I knew into the unknown with tears streaming down my face all that came to mind was "Farewell my love".    

About a hundred miles down the road Savannah, who was doing her best to fight going to sleep, said "Mom, what is God doing?" This caught me off guard at first because we did not attend church regularly before we came to Tennessee, we said grace before dinner sometimes but Savannah had never asked me questions about God during a normal day. So her asking in the middle of the night while driving down the highway to live with strangers having never left the state of Michigan makes perfect sense right? What God was doing was the last thing I expected.  It's hard to describe my arrival to the Smith's house because I was so emotionally and physically drained that I don't remember much from the first week I was here. I can recall being thankful that they weren't weirdos that lived in a cult. But I had maintained a peaceful feeling about coming to them since the moment in the back yard so hadn't really been to worried about that anyway. The following weeks were filled with rest, something I forgot about, and a lot of self reflection. I was like a sponge, soaking up all I could from the very Biblically knowledgeable people that I was blessed to come to know. I spent hours reading the bible at night, crying my eyes out. That was my new coping skill, and a humbling one. I learned the story of Audrey and it moved me, she has done so much for so many. I watched as Todd and Angie and other couples that I met here set an example of what a marriage is supposed to look like, and they talked to me about what God really wants a marriage to be.  Angie sets a profound example of how a wife is supposed to conduct herself and shown me what a strong christian woman looks like. One night I sat and talked to Todd and listened to words pour out of his mouth that were so beautiful about his wife that I realized how a good husband was supposed to treat his wife.  For the first time in years, I started to feel like I was worth something. I listened to a man named Blake Bergstrom preach so passionately and clearly about Jesus at Cross Point the second week I was here that I could finally grasp the sacrifice that Jesus made for us. I walked into Cross Point thinking I was a believer and I walked out knowing I truly did believe.  I was saved. 

About three weeks after my stay with Todd and Angie, I reluctantly moved out with "A". Things quickly began to unravel. I knowingly moved out knowing that it was not in God's plan for me to go but I couldn't be sure without seeing for myself. It lasted a long six days before I packed up and came back to Todd and Angie's. I so thankful that they welcomed me back with open arms and said they knew I would be back anyway. It was that week that I called Jason began to try to connect with him again. Even if it didn't work out I made a promise to God and myself that from that point on I would be the wife that I vowed to be and as long as there was a breath in my marriage, I would not give up. The kind of wife that's pleasing to God the kind of wife that doesn't view wedding vows as "implied tasks".  Jason, to say the least, was not doing well. After he found out we were gone he had tried to quit drinking to "change his stars" and come find us but ended up in the hospital while trying to detox himself. I talked to him everyday until I went up to Michigan to visit my sick Grandfather and it was that weekend that we spent every spare minute in three beautiful days that we could together. We talked about our mistakes, we talked about our long lost dreams and for the first time in a very long time we shared our feelings with each other sober and sincerely.  It was magical. I wanted to bring him back with me so badly but the timing was wrong and I knew he wasn't ready. I had gone against what God was telling me too many times before to chance loosing him, so I left  without him again. This time with the assurance that we would be together at God's will. 

The wait was agonizing. It was impossible for Jason to stay sober in the environment that he was in even with all my encouragement. Until finally it happened, Todd and Angie agreed to put him on a bus and get him out of there. He left similar to the way I did, packing and moving his things in the night so no one would talk him out of it, and telling no one of his plans to leave. He got on a bus at night and rode over night, having no care of where he was going just as long as his family was at the end of the ride. And we were. We were blessed to have a pasture at our church offer to have Jason stay with their family until we could get our ducks in a row. So here we are, together after years of turmoil happy and more in love than we have ever been. Don't get me wrong, things are not perfect. He is still struggling to find steady employment, our house in Michigan is in foreclosure, we live in separate houses and we are in intense counseling. But as I have learned, as long as you are doing what is good and right, the lord will provide.  I am so proud of Jason he is over a month sober now and still going strong. He attends church with us every Sunday, God is doing some amazing things with him. There aren't words that would do any justice for the abundant amount of grace that the Lord has bestowed on my family. two days ago, at 9:30a.m. my husband and I were scheduled to stand in a court room in Michigan and finalize our divorce. Instead, we were celebrating our blessed union in marriage.  



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