(Originally Posted 1-2-2018)
When we’re young, people ask us, “What do you want to be when you grow up?” It seems so easy. “I want to be a nurse, or a doctor, a policeman or fireman” are common responses. Along with “I want to be Spiderman, or Superman,” or in my daughter’s case when she graduated from preschool said, “I want to be Belle” from Beauty and the Beast. I especially loved her response. She deeply desired to feel loved, cherished and adored. We all do. For me, from the age of 9 I knew music was in me and somehow I always knew music would never leave me. Some kids grow up and do exactly what they’ve always dreamed of doing. Some don’t. Some are still searching. Little did we know the twists and turns on the journey to adulthood do not always leave us high on the mountaintop. Sometimes the slips and falls forge a crevice so deep it makes the valley of defeat seem uncomplicated.
From the time I was very young, I always had my heart set on accomplishing great things, and no one told me I couldn’t achieve them. My parents, aunts, uncles, and even my grandparents always encouraged us to shoot for the stars. “You can do anything if you set your mind to it” was commonly spoken to us. We were strategically disciplined and doing less than our best was unacceptable with consequences that were swift and sure. Yet, something deep inside me kept nagging at me and made me feel as if I was not up to par.
The separation was hard. It was especially difficult because I was made to prove my case for divorce. There was a time when I was young, as the teacher asked our class questions I always raised my hand first in class, so excited I knew the correct answer. Something happened to me from the time I married until the time I divorced. I went from a person who was positive and could see the best in everyone to a person who was so broken I didn’t know who I was anymore. I couldn’t remember who I was before I married. I couldn’t remember the last time I cried—it had been at least two years. I wasn’t able to feel that emotion. I was surviving. Literally. I’m sure now I was held up by God’s own hand and not of my own. I know this, because there was no more strength within me.
Although I was very aware of the darkness we were living in, I found it very difficult to describe with clarity what it was like living with a man who literally sucked the life out of me. We know our spouses, don’t we. We know things about them no one else knows. That’s true for any marriage. I was not the type of person who aired my dirty laundry for the whole world to see. I was very accomplished in keeping “dark little secrets.” However, my survival would require me to disclose those things once hidden in darkness and the light was calling them into accountability once and for all. I knew God was with me and for all those who once called me “friend” this divorce would clearly draw the lines of truth, lies and the measure of a person’s heart. Those who once appreciated me, were now vehemently against me. What changed? I couldn’t grasp this complexity and wondered for a long time. I was still the same person. The shift came when truth had its say and truth was a voice to be reckoned with. I understood little at that time of the vastness of God’s sovereignty and how not one moment in time escapes his grasp.
Even so, I protected him, and in essence, I protected his family too. There were things that happened during our marriage that were so dreadful, so despicable and I could, in advance, feel the weight of souls who would never be able to come to terms with that reality. So, I said nothing. Only we know that truth. But we know it. Besides, I didn’t want to destroy him. I just wanted out. I wanted peace. I was so nervous. I prayed and fasted that God would show himself faithful in this on my behalf. Indeed, God was there and his glory shown brightly in the courtroom that day. After only 2-1/2 hours, I was granted a full divorce based on his ill-conduct and awarded full custody of our daughter. Surreal. Numb. Break. Silence. Reserved. There is a supernatural break with divorce and the rippling effects can last generations to come if we do not allow God to make us whole. The aftereffects of the divorce were harder to some degree than living amidst the silence of suffering. Now, it was out in the open and there were many views being voiced, many schemes, plots, plans and devices connived and schemed against us. But God…
Now that the divorce was final, we had to settle the property. God had indeed blessed us with many things—enough furnishings to fill two households. We bought the property from his uncle. We had the house placed on concrete piers we had poured so it set on a firm foundation, and we had cinderblocks under-skirting the house. Unless a person knew, anyone who looked at our home could not tell it was a doublewide manufactured home. Here in lies the quandary. The house was in my name. The dirt was in our name. I considered leaving the house, but I was told I could not require him to refinance the house and put it into his name. I was told I should fight for it, especially having a child. But, again, the dirt had been in his family for years. I looked at every angle, but I knew from the beginning, I wasn’t even going to try to take the land. My life here was over and God was more than able to give me a clean, fresh start. So, I decided I would move the house, and the above ground pool and the deck that surrounded the pool. No sweat. I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me. Yes. My faith was strong.
I was given exactly one month, only 30 days, to move all that which was mine off the property and was warned I had better not destroy the property in the process of doing so. If I was not able to accomplish this almost impossible task, I would lose the house and everything left on the property. Now, I must interject here. I thought I was being extraordinarily gracious by not even trying to maintain ownership of the land. And I was. To a fault. Lesson #infinity, not all hearts come to terms to grace and release as quickly as others. It became just another vivid display of his controlling, arrogant nature abounding in the light of day, for all to see. And what made him smirk with elation even more so, it was legal. He had become drunk with pride. Even so, I was determined I would not be defeated!
I called in every friend I had to help. The task was enormous but not impossible. First, we had to release the house to be moved. With two sledge hammers, a dear friend of mine and I began busting up the cinderblocks at the base of the house. We pounded away and to my surprise, this wall was crumbling faster than I had anticipated. Nevertheless, after about two hours, I felt like it was me being beaten with the sledge hammer, and not the cinderblocks. What was I thinking?? Had the longings of my soul for freedom taken me completely out of my right mind? Did my desire to walk undefeated outweigh my sense of common sense and drive me into the land of stupidity?? Perhaps, all of the above. Oh my. I was so tired I could hardly walk. My legs felt like they were carrying the weight of an elephant. I’m so glad my friend was a strong man. With my endless apologies, even though it took him the better part of the day, he was able to complete the job without my help. Now…the rest of the story.
I woke up the next morning and I declared with distinct certainty I had found every muscle in my body—even every strand of muscle tissue that was hidden from touch or imaging capabilities. I was sure I would never recover. Jesus! It was all I could say. I was down for four days. And…the clock was ticking.
I devised a precise day-by-day, step-by-step plan to remove all that was mine—on time. I lined up the helpers and secured the transport truck that would move the house. Now that the cinderblocks were loosed, we began work dismantling the deck around the swimming pool—an 18’ x 36’ above ground pool, with decking along three sides of the pool. The first attack on my hands came when I found out just how heavy a sand filter is after it slipped off its base while I was trying to remove it from the pool. I was forthright in my assertion that my hands were to bring God glory. In retrospect, I guess all of this might sound like an oxymoronic statement considering all the work my hands were actually doing. But, I was determined. After all, I was always taught a little hard work never hurt anyone. Yep!
Things were clicking along and finally everything was falling into place. There were 12’ 4 x 4’s along the outside of the pool on three sides. I had them placed there so we could eventually put a cover on it to block some of the sun. Being of Irish decent, my fair skin beamed brightly after a few minutes in the sun. I enlisted the help of my mother and my sister to take down the 12’ beams. There is truth in the saying, “Hell hath no fury like a woman’s scorn.” With the brute force of three healthy women who, with unparalleled determination for victory, one by one, down came those beams. It was an added blessing that the ground had softened from rain. At this point, dismantling the pool, in fact, was a snap, comparatively speaking.
Finally, we were down to the last week. A couple from my church who had become very good friends of mine, brought their dump truck and we proceeded to pick up all the busted pieces of cinderblock to clear the way for the house to be moved. While I was picking up the pieces of cinderblock, the Lord spoke to me. He reminded me of the day I was swinging that sledge hammer and how exhausted and sore I became after doing so. Then he showed me the scattered debris of all the pieces (big, small and splinters) of cinderblock laying all over the ground and the painstaking work it was to pick them all up. His words to me were profound. “With great destructive force, your life isn’t the same. Wouldn’t it be easier to let me pick up the broken pieces of your life and put everything back together for you rather than you trying to do it yourself?” I knew God was right. As I looked at all the broken pieces of cinderblock laying around, I knew my life had been broken into a million pieces. I knew I would never be the same. Furthermore, I was at a loss of how to start the process of recovery.
This all happened in the month of October. It was the rainy season for us and we were down to the last five days before the 30-day deadline. The rain poured for three days. I pleaded with my attorney to appeal on my behalf for more time, as there was so much rain, the transport truck said they wouldn’t move the house until the rain stopped and the ground dried out some for fear of getting stuck in the front of the property.
I was betwixed and between. I had come too far to quit now. I was so exhausted I could hardly think straight. Had I worked so hard and accomplished so much just to lose everything now? Everything was ready and in place on my new property to receive my house. Surely this was not happening! But God…
God led me to the book of Joshua. I felt as if I had been like Joshua, charged with leading me and my daughter out of captivity and into the promised land. We were facing our Jericho. In the downpour of rain, I took anointed oil and walked the perimeter of the land and prayed that the rain would stop and that the ground would not soak up so much water the house could not be moved. I did this seven times as instructed by the Holy Spirit. To my utter astonishment, the rain started easing up and by nightfall, it had stopped raining! Talk about seeing the glory of God! I felt his strength rise up within me that could conquer any obstacle. I called the transport truck company and to my relief, they said they would send a man the next day to look at the property and let me know if he thought they would be able to move the house. Yes. God did it. They determined the ground was hard enough they would come the next day and move the house. Amazing. God of Infinite Power and Glory!
The house was moved with two days to spare. We made it to the promised land. We were free at last. And at the same time…we had only just begun. Never before in my life had I seen and realized just how personal, caring and powerful God really is. He tells us we are engraved on the palm of his hand and oh, how he rescues us out of every pit! I’ve been asked many times, how can a God who is so loving, allow so many bad things to happen to people? I can honestly say, I cannot with completeness answer that question. I do know, God is love. God does not want bad things to happen to us. God does not cause bad things happen to people. God gives us a will and freedom to choose, and as long as there is evil in this world, sadly, bad things will happen to people. Most assuredly, God will always be there for you to pick up those pieces and make your life whole once again, if you will let him.
The lesson God taught me that day with the broken pieces of cinderblock built the foundation of the song Picking Up The Pieces, with the rest of the song being written based on my son’s struggles.
One of the greatest lessons I learned was through the process of moving my house. In retrospect, and hindsight always being 20/20, I should have walked away from everything and let God deal with the aftermath of the destructive ploys against us in the way God does best. Had I allowed God to move me and my daughter into a life completely new and sever any attachment to the past, no matter how hard the labor to obtain what we acquired, our journey would have taken a much different direction. Even so, I proved to myself the strength and determination I once knew about myself was still there. It was a monstrous undertaking, but God being God, we have become more than conquerors through Christ and have grown to walk in his wisdom as he has taught us to do. Why? Because that’s what God wants for us. And, because that’s what I purposed in my heart to do. Overcome. Release. Grow. Abound in my calling and walking in my destiny whole in Jesus Christ. All in all, I always knew God would see us through. I always knew that what I couldn’t achieve, God could and would do for me. I never look to a person for what I hope to achieve. God is my source. I am blessed he chooses to use someone like me. God asks, “Who will go for me?” I say, “I will go. Send me.”
There is an old saying, “The best laid plans of mice and men often go awry.” Our life is only half complete when we try to do things on our own. When we strive to achieve our future on our terms and not through the guidance and strength of God, it is as Ecclesiastes says, vanity. It’s all vanity. God told me not too many years ago, “I am moved with compassion for my people.” No matter what the journey we travel and the pitfalls along the way, Jesus Always Cares.