Chapter 36: Thankful

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Grand Canyon, Spring 2011–Live Life.

I always thought my aunt and uncle’s house in Alexandria, VA was the real “White House”.  It was a beautiful house in an awesome neighborhood, and we spent many Thanksgiving’s there.  We never had turkey, we had ham and macaroni and cheese–my aunt’s famous macaroni and cheese; thinking about it makes my mouth water. My mom, her favorite brother, my aunt, my sister, my cousin Martha sat around the table and ate like normal families– those were times of happiness in the midst of so much pain.  My heart was then as it is now full when I am in the midst of people I love.  It was then and is now the balm that heals pain—even if it is a short break from reality.   I learned to make the mac and cheese shortly before my aunt died, and it became a bit of a signature dish around my own house on not only Thanksgiving, but any day where we had family over for a holiday.

Thanksgiving was quickly approaching in the fall of 2006 and I was determined to have everybody together.  His mom asked me if I was going to make my mac and cheese because she wanted to plan her blood test around it, so that she could eat all that she wanted.  In my heart I knew that I wanted both kids there and I wanted it to be the biggest, happiest Thanksgiving Day ever.  I didn’t know why; but I was determined to make it happen.  We flew his son and pregnant girlfriend in and his daughter came over and we created one of the very few good memories I have of that time in my life.  I made everyone dress up so that we could take pictures together; and we did.  I can’t stand to look at them now, nor can I throw them away.  I had no plans to leave when we had that special Thanksgiving, but less than 60 days later, I did just that.  In January, that will have been 8 years ago.
“You know my soul, you know everything about me there’s to know, you know my heart and how to make me stop & how to make me go…” Kelly Clarkson “Thankful”
 
On a day like today, words fail me.  The last 8 years have been no cake-walk, but yet my heart is full of gratitude, hope and love.  All day I have been sending and receiving text messages of Thanksgiving greetings;  from people post 8 years ago—the ones that still are walking with me through the trenches, and of course people that walked in the abyss that was before.  Then there are those of you who read this blog that I don’t know but have been so encouraging to me as I have written through part of my journey.  It’s crazy how your comments after each post added to the healing; and drove me to a purpose.
“I’m thankful for the blessing and the lessons that I’ve learned with you by my side I’m thankful so thankful for the love that you keep bringing in my life in my life thankful, so thankful”
 
So, what now?  What is the purpose?  Well, I am not sure of the totality of the purpose, but I do know that this story, the parts you have read and a lot you haven’t needs to be published.  I am not looking forward to the next few months. I will not be able to make those chapters available to you.  Part of the publishing deal is to not post and also pull down the existing blog. It will be hard not getting your heart felt feedback; the random request to share the blog with somebody in a crisis; or the opportunity to get involved myself. However, bunkering down and writing is the only way we will get to OUR purpose; and your prayers will be invaluable to me as I write, edit, put together and ultimately get the book to print.
I am nervous, because I realize the gravity of telling a story like mine.  I am nervous because it’s still such painful memories. So I cherish your prayers as this process is not over; but like all painful and hard things; it will be so worth it.  And this is the realization of a dream as I have always wanted to write a book; just not this one.
I still want to be a resource to those of you who desire that; and some of you are not on Facebook.  I will, occasionally update on Facebook, and certainly that will be the first medium I will use to let you know it is completed, and where you can find it.
In the meantime, you can reach me at this email address: amy_lloydjones@yahoo.com.
I would love to hear from you during this process, the hope is to have it published late spring early summer 2015.
The apostle Paul wrote letters to his “people” as he traveled and preached the gospel.  Those letters, available for all of us to read, are ones where he encourages, and asks for prayers.  So, I can’t think of a better way to say what is on my heart on this day of Thanksgiving than words he used himself.
“I thank my God upon every remembrance of you” Phil 1:3
 
Until then, my sweet friends, I encourage you to keep fighting for the under-dog.  Remember the Hope that makes redemption stories like mine possible.  Love God and get you some people that will do what mine do for me—love you with everything they have.  In fact, this kind of love—
Patient.
Kind.
It does not envy.
It does not boast.
It is not proud.  
It does not dishonor others.
It is not self-seeking.
It is not easily angered.
It keeps no record of wrongs.
Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth.
It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.
I love you guys, and on this day where we focus of that for which we are thankful, all of you are on that list.  And I can only say two words.
Thank You.
 
I love you guys, and on this day where we focus of that for which we are thankful, all of you are on that list.  And I can only say two words.
Thank You.
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Chapter 35: You Make Me Brave

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“Do you feel safe?”  I heard her and I understood her words, but I glanced around the tiny examination room at the doctor’s office to make sure that she was asking me that question.  She was staring at me as she waited for her answer and I knew if I spoke that my voice would crack and that the tears would come.  But, somehow her question was comforting as she leaned against a wall so that she could look me in the eyes.  And then the tears came.  I may never know her name, but the compassion in her eyes, the inflection in her voice, and the calmness of her demeanor broke me—after over a month of not shedding one single tear of this latest attempt to harm me.

I was there to touch base with my doctor about the things that are happening as he continues to layer his motions and requests to the court. Everyday there is a new piece of mail from the court; all of them just another form of abuse; even though we have been divorced for 8 years. Her next question stunned me.  “Have you thought about going to a domestic violence shelter?”  I was almost offended.  And for the first time, maybe ever, I understood that there are thousands of victims of domestic violence that do not have a support system like I have.  As I answered her with an emphatic “no” I felt the need to tell her that I was in a situation that was very safe and that we have emergency plans; and certainly the injunction added a layer of security for me.
The tears would not stop and I realized that I had not cried that much for a very long time.  As the doctor was typing notes into his laptop, I could only imagine what he was writing; but then he looked up at me and helped me understand that this did not mean I was weak; that the person sitting in front of him yesterday was not the person he has seen over the last year.  And he said those magic words that always makes me feel better: “you realize this is a normal reaction to this, don’t you?  This doesn’t make you weak, this makes you strong, this makes you brave.”
And there is that word again.  I’ve struggled with that description of me since I started writing this blog; and have really tried to strip it down and understand what makes a person brave.  And suddenly, I remembered hearing a song on the radio the day before; a song that is so deep in it’s message that it’s necessary to read the lyrics as you listen to the song.  I left the doctor’s office with some change up to medication that will help with the trigger flashbacks, and one desire: to find that song.
“I stand before You now; the greatness of Your renown. I have heard of the majesty and wonder of You.  King of Heaven in humility, I bow” You Make Me Brave, Bethel Music
I got in my car, found the song and kept rewinding this first part of the song.  Sometimes being “strong” is a bad thing; as that perceived strength rarely brings me to my knees; but on this day—I needed to stand before Him.  I needed to remember His majesty, His wonder.  I needed to remember that He paid the ultimate price so that I could admit my weakness.  The words did not come, but in the silence, I knew this was a moment that I wanted to remember; and more importantly, this was a moment when I knew there was no other place to go—only the greatness of His renown could help me now.
“As Your love, In wave after wave, crashes over me, crashes over me, For You are for us, You are not against us, Champion of Heaven. You’ve made a way, For all to enter in.”
As I heard those lyrics I could physically feel the relief, that only His love, wave after wave CRASHING over me, was my only hope for the pain, for the flashbacks, for the intensity of nightmares and lack of sleep.  It doesn’t matter how confident we are that 2+2=4, sometimes we question things we know for sure; those things that are absolute Truth—a truth so basic that He is for us, NEVER against us; and this battle is His, not mine.
I can not pretend to understand any of this.  I do know that I do not want to be a voice for domestic violence; I want to finish this story, and literally, close the chapter of my life and put it on a book shelf.  Part of me wants to put it on the highest shelf, where no doubt dust would collect, and maybe, someday if somebody wanted to read it they could blow the dust off and read it; preferably long after I am gone.  There is so much to live for in the here and now; and it’s so important to me to not be defined by any of the things that happened to me; regardless if it was by the hands of any number of abusers or by the abandonment by my mother.  I wanted (want) people to see me now, and see the miracle that is my life now—I want to write and speak about something, anything, ELSE.
“I have heard You call my name, I have heard the song of love that You sing. So, I will let You draw me beyond the shoreInto Your grace, Your grace”
As I heard those words, “So I will let You draw me beyond the shore, into Your grace”, I knew that, for me, I needed to surrender and let Him use these things for as long and as much as He wants.
But I am so afraid.
Sometimes the pain, replicated by flashbacks and memories, crash over me– albeit a weaker crash than His Love, but it slams me against rocks.  And it hurts; it opens wounds; it requires attention; it requires focus; it requires complete surrender.
It requires the bottom most prominent space on the book shelf; it requires writing in pencil; it requires empty pages so that He can continue to tell the story as He has called me beyond the shore—without a visual of land; of safety; or closure.  It requires fixing my eyes on Him; it requires faith;  it requires bravery.  But, where, where can I find that kind of bravery?
“You make me brave, You make me brave, You called me beyond the shore and Into the waves. You make me brave, You make me brave. No fear can hinder now. The love that made a way. For You are for us, You are not against us, Champion of Heaven.  You’ve made a way.”
Suddenly,  I understood the words from many of you from the last year.  If I am brave, it is because He has made me brave.  He is for me; not against me.  When one views the totality of my life; it is hard to understand why a “good God” can allow such things to happen.  I understand how that looks to others, but I am grateful that I have never wondered that; but I wish I could say that I want Him to continue this part of the story.  I want it all to go away.  I want to move on; I want to live my life and have friends that don’t know any of my story; because that was then and this is now.
But the Grip on this story, the Grip on my life, is not my own.  And after finally composing myself enough to start the engine of my car, a peace crashed over me and the tears continued to flow; as I understood that this isn’t my decision; this is His.  So, am I brave?  Only if I obey and visit dark places.  Only if I  go offshore where I can not see land;  only when I realize my fears are weaker than my Hope.
The very next song that shuffled on my phone was one of my favorites but the timing of it gave me chills; and maybe for the first time ever, I realized that I am on Holy Ground.  So, I turned the volume up as loud as I could and sang the chorus at the top of my lungs:
“So long status quo, I think I just let go, You make me want to be brave.  The way it has always been is no longer good enough, You make me want to be brave.” Nichole Nordeman, Brave
I am weary today, both emotionally and physically, but I will keep writing in pencil, I will keep adding blank pages to the end of the book—because He makes me brave.