Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Courage Needed: Going to Court and a Custody Battle

He and I sat on opposite sides in the courtroom.
A day spent together hiking in the outdoors that eventful summer.
Here again. Different venue, but our tangle of emotions alive, sizzling, tense. The memories re-surfaced. We had been at a similar place eight years before, across from each other, lawyers by our sides; the dismantling of our twenty-one years of marital togetherness in the final stages of legal due process. Its finality undeniable. Unwelcome. His lawyer, my lawyer, and documents and legal agreements. He and I were polite, courteous, civil. My attorney had voiced surprise at our calm agreeable treatment of each other. We weren't the arguing type. Never had been. It had seemed strange that day, my mate across from me, not sitting by my side ... when in my mind were still joined as "one." My heart was cleaved in two during the proceedings and the events preceding his choice to exit our marriage and family unit. That had been hard, terribly hard for me. I had believed our marriage could be saved up until the moment of its death. An army of Christian family and friends had prayed for me that day. I had needed their prayers most desperately. 

Here we were again. Yes. Time and circumstances had changed me in the years between. He really had no clue as to how much I had grown in all areas of my life. Difficult growth but positive in every way. My emotional support group, prayer warriors, were at it again. How much I needed their prayers. I felt weak. The darkness was waging war with my family. The pain was back. The process of healing had taken years of repair, not yet complete. Why did we need to come back to this hurting place? It was hard to revisit its turmoil. The wicked darts of emotional warfare were touching all of us: my grown children, young daughter, my ex and me. 


The spiritual battle had descended. We were conflicted over the custodial arrangements for his and my youngest daughter who was twelve at the time. She was wanting to live with him in a neighboring town, no longer with me. When I resisted this plan, words were said. He felt I had turned our children against him. That stung. It was not true. I had  encouraged them to keep the door open. But this scenario was unexpected. I couldn't imagine it as being a good thing for her. After much prayer and advice, I knew that I must get in the fray. I hate conflict. It goes against my nature and beliefs. But, there are times you have no choice, not one you can live with anyways, you know you must take action.
"MY YOUNGEST CHILD DOESN’T WANT TO LIVE WITH ME any longer. The father of my children and my child announced this to me after sixth-grade graduation. It was stated as a fact, as if it had already been decided as a done deal. I was calm but inwardly felt devastated. I spent the week talking with people who have been through things like this, and I talked with others, like the school psychologist and my minister, getting their input and perspective before making my decision whether to agree or not agree to a change of primary custody. I never thought this would happen.

The court battle was upon me. I would be brave, courageous, meeting the challenges. But how to? I didn't wish to hurt him or to set off a negative chain reaction. I had never learned to stand up for myself. He wouldn't expect it of me. It would anger and hurt him. I knew his vulnerabilities. I would speak up for my daughter's sake. Fear. I was afraid. I knew what I was facing. And I knew it would not be well-received. I had become the enemy in this drama. The conflict was causing tension in my daughter. She and I were now at odds, unable to function as should a mother and daughter. Her opinion of me had altered. I was on the "outs." No longer was I able to speak freely, my authority compromised. Things I would say to her were no longer kept between the two of us. I became "suspect" in my own home. Scary and uncertain was this path. It was tense for me. My closest friends were like medicine, listening to me as I tried to figure it out.

My Pastor kept tabs. He heard my hurting heart after I told him about some negative communications that my ex husband had been saying about me to my older children. My four oldest were in varying stages of reacting, taking it in different ways, some in silence, others in words of pain. None of it good. This was upsetting to me. They were being put on a side. It was from the Enemy. His presence was all over it. I knew this. I could see it and feel it. My wish had been to begin a ministry to help hurting people. I had prayed the "Prayer of Jabez" about this desire of my heart. I was beginning to formulate a plan of action. Now I was side-lined into a place where I did not know the right way to proceed. I did know that most of all I wanted to do it God's way. How to do it His way, and also stand up for my daughter's future, was a mystery to me. I am a peace-maker, less a warrior.             
"MY PASTOR GATHERED PEOPLE TO PRAY FOR ME after the morning service yesterday.  Before the service started he asked me if this would be okay.  He was aware of the turmoil and comments directed at my adult children and me. Then, at the conclusion of the service, he mentioned the situation and that my family was in need of prayer. He invited those who knew our family and would like to pray to come to the front. I sat on a chair, and they gathered in a circle around me. He briefly explained my situation and cautioned them—that in joining in the spiritual battle by praying for me and my family, they could also expect spiritual warfare in their own lives.
Many prayed, some with tears in their voices. Two who prayed, a young man who is a father of two and a young woman who is a mother of one, both were peers with my oldest two children and knew them growing up in the church; prayed specifically for my four grown children. The young man stayed after to hug me; he said my sons are like brothers to him. I could tell he felt emotion. As people prayed a warmth cascaded around and through me; I could feel the light touch of someone’s hands resting on my shoulders. I felt that many were remembering back to years before, when our family unit of good standing came apart in their midst, and my children and I suffered such deep hurt.
After they were done praying, I told everyone, “I feel loved.” I've never been prayed for in that way before. They love my child, my older children, and me. Two sweet friends gave me hugs, and they spoke with sad voices. I told one friend I had been hoping for healing in my kids lives this summer, but instead it’s been more pain. She said, “God can use this.” How wonderful to be prayed over. What a blessing; the prayers spoke to every area that need speaking to—and with charity toward my ex-husband. Amazing. Before the circle prayer, some who couldn’t stay told me they are praying, and I know they will."
Oh, beautiful loving friends of God. You came in when I needed the extra measure of courage and stout-heartedness. You loved me when I needed so much to be loved. Standing with me. Holding my hands. Trusting Jesus for the outcome. You went with me as I entered the fiery furnace. You cared about all of us and were kind and nonjudgmental. Thank you. You were real love to me.

"TWO DAYS AGO I FACED A GIANT. The giant came in the form of facing my ex in court and facing the fear and intimidation it represented for me. I had to present things that would not set well, and I knew it. Courage. I had to pull up the courage to say what needed to be said without losing my dignity and soft-spoken way. I had to confront my own timidity and fears before I could speak the words I knew I needed to say. The prayers of God’s people supported me as I walked into that room. My twelve-year-old daughter’s destiny held in the balance. The verse God gave me this time was, “The battle belongs to the Lord”; such true words. Emotional, critical-to-life thoughts drain me.
Terms of the agreement documented a change in primary custody. My daughter moved to her father's home. My "win" was the agreement for her to attend a private Christian school in my town. It was something I pushed for as a safe-guard for her. I felt grief the days and weeks following her exodus. I worried about her. I continued to walk on egg-shells when she was with me on my weekends. A darkness seemed to hover. She reacted to almost anything I would say. Over time the scene began to change. She started spending more time at my home after school, a mid-week overnight, playing the piano, scarfing down my home-made meals, less defensive, more talkative. I did some changing. Lots of soul-searching and a reassessment of my parenting. God took me to a new level of trust.
 
Piano recital that spring.

And, I realized a true fact, she really just wanted to have a dad. She had no memory of him living with us and I had never remarried. She needed a dad, and more attention to her needs. I had been so busy with teaching school, farming, and church, that her needs were not being met. Especially, her need to be heard. I was forced to reevaluate my busyness.

Going to court is hard. We both want to raise our children. I learned something amazing from the experience. God helped me see His faithfulness as he protected my child and cared for her when I could not be with her. The tide changed again eighteen months later. We faced it with a peaceful resolution.
"THE SUN IS SETTING. NO FOG AFTER A WEEK OF DAMPNESS. My heart is full of happiness. God has answered my prayer. My baby, my little girl, my sweet daughter has chosen to return to my care. It has been a sorrowful road, but today she decided for sure. Soon she will live with me again. I had to come up here to mark the joy in my heart and thankfulness now that is mine. Her father called yesterday. He was so pleasant, kind, courteous, different. He seems more aware, even wished me luck on the house I made an offer on yesterday. He said I deserved it, and he hoped I would get it. Wow. I still feel stunned.
Thank you, Jesus. Thank you with my whole heart. Thank you for my daughter, for my ex, and his willingness. I praise you, I adore you, magnify you, glory in you. Praise be to God for his amazing grace and ever-faithful ways. During joyless weeks, I found my true joy in you, dear Father God. So blessed by your presence I have been. You moved so quickly after an eighteen-month wait—a long time in which I learned to find my rest in you. You alone give rest in the midst of emotional and physical crises in my life. How good you are to me. Your comfort fills me. ... I wish more people had eyes to see your beauty."
We learn through all of life's experiences. How glad I am that God gives me what I need when the battle is upon me. I am also grateful for the times when the battle is over, when I can look back and see the goodness of God that kept and helped and interceded during the trial and times of woe. Praise Him! ....                                      
I wrote on the subject of courage for Jo Ann Fore's author site. Acting with courage has been a challenge for me. There have been many times when I have asked my Father God to give me courage during times of insecurity and trouble. I heard my teenage daughter telling a friend recently, "You are stronger than you think you are," a throwback from one of my quotes to her! We don't walk alone. God walks with us.

If you haven't read it yet, you will be blessed by reading 
Jo Ann Fore's book. Chapter 8 goes into detail about the part courage plays in the process of becoming a woman who will speak.

"When A Woman Finds Her Voice" will bless and encourage you. It may be purchased by following this link:   Amazon Book Link is Here

#When a Woman Finds Her Voice
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8 comments:

  1. I rejoice with you on the return of your daughter!. Reading this reminds me of a quote by Maya Angelou...We delight in the beauty of the butterfly but rarely admit the changes it has gone through to achieve that beauty.
    Blessings to you butterfly. <3

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    1. That quote is excellent and so true. Growth comes with pain, but beauty comes too. Thanks for the comment. Blessings ...

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  2. Praise God for the restoration Norma!

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    1. Hi Jo Ann. Miracles still happen as you well know. Thank you for the comment and for giving me an excuse to harken back to some lessons learned that I don't write much about! Blessings ...

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  3. Your heart, your love and faith, are a shining light. And your understanding of what God was showing you that your daughter needed is grace filled and encouraging. Bless you my dear. Prayers for you and your family. You did good Mama!

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  4. Such an encouraging comment. Thank you. It is always easier looking back once the hard time is passed. This is true for all of us. You are kind. Bless you ...

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