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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