Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Go Forth...

Last night was my last night at Minnesota Adult and Teen Challenge.  I'm a graduate, and I am a new creation in Christ!

I went there for the first time on August 10 and have spent fifteen hours a week in or on my way to class and countless hours completing my homework.  One of the first assignments was called "Renewing Your Mind" and every person who completed it really did find renewal and blessing in the work necessary to complete that assignment. Many more followed - sexual integrity, healing after abuse, worry, anxiety, fear, relapse prevention...  Every hour I spent in the pages of those assignments changed my life, my heart, and my spirit.

Those assignments were not the typical treatment work.  They were developed over a couple decades by our teacher and therapist, Lori.  She has such an incredible heart for God and a deep, abiding love for others. She poured her heart into the assignments she created.  Every paragraph provoked thoughtful examination of conscience in me and in others in my classes. The questions we answered forced us to search our hearts for truth and share brutal and painful realities. Each of us who completed those assignments learned about ourselves and developed a new relationship with Christ and confidence in our recovery.  I am so glad I did that work, even though it was the hardest work I have ever done.

I am going to miss my classes and my sessions with Lori, but I am also ready for the next phase of my life and ready to be done with all those hours of introspection and healing. Don't get me wrong - healing has only begun! But it's time for a new, independent phase of healing.  I plan to remain involved in recovery programs and I plan to share my story with anyone who will listen.

Last night I shared part of my story with the newly formed coed group.

Our Christian women's group underwent the transition to a co-ed treatment group last Monday.  Considering that much of my trauma has been inflicted by men, the transition was not a happy event for me.  I would not have talked about many of the things I talked about over the last four months had my group included men from the beginning.  That is not a commentary on men! It is certain knowledge that my journey would have been vitally different had it not occurred in the exclusive company of Christian women.

During our first coed meeting, I articulated my concerns.  Women's voices are so valuable and studies indicate that those voices are often silenced in the presence of men.  There are many reasons for that, and I don't care to debate them. It is what it is. Because I knew that, I chose to drive two hours round trip to attend a group that was exclusive to women, and even more exclusive to Christian women - women who desired a stronger relationship with Christ and who will freely admit their inability to conquer their addictions without Christ.

One of the men in the group respectfully pointed out that sharing my story among those men - men who are also weak and wounded - could foster a deeper understanding of women's experience, and those words resonated with me.  When I wrote a concise recap of my experience, I wrote it knowing I would share it with men.

My recap is brutal and cold.  I didn't talk about so many issues that created the collateral damage in my life.  I talked about the bare bones and the ugly consequences. My recap took the form of a goodbye letter to alcohol, my drug of choice.

After reading it, each person said something to me.  Their very sincere words told me that my testimony mattered to them.  And, you know? Their words matter to me.  I won't forget the things they said or how they recognized Christ in my life.  I won't share what they said either.  Those words are all mine.  They give me hope for the future and confidence that I am letting the light of Christ shine.

My friend and therapist, Lori, gave me her rendition of Jesus with the Word given to her for me by the Holy Spirit.

It reads:
God created a purpose and then He created me in Christ Jesus - He actually selected me for Himself as His own before the foundation of the world and positioned me for destiny by making me holy and without fault in His eyes.  Therefore, through Him, I can do everything He has called me to do.  He strengthens and empowers me to fulfill His purpose.  I am self-sufficient in Christ's sufficiency.  I am ready for anything and equal to anything through Him who infuses me with inner strength and confident peace.

Ephesians 1:11,4, Philippians 4:13

Over several years Jakob gave me many gifts with the same verse: I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.  Man! Did he ever hit the nail on the head!

I left last night after sharing the words my friend Pat shared at yesterday's Rotary meeting:  do not curse the darkness; instead light a candle.

Go light your candles!


Thursday, October 29, 2015

Living Kindness

I have the luxury of loving kind people. A bunch of them from a bunch of backgrounds. They are all people I am thankful to have in my life every day.

In a perfect world, this post would be read while listening to Bebo Norman's I Will Lift My Eyes, as that's what I was hearing when I wrote it.

A kind person is not the same thing as a nice person. I've known nice people and I want nothing to do with them.  Their version of nice meant they followed the rules when others could see what they were doing, but what they did behind the scenes was all about lying and cheating and stealing and hurting.  Their rage at being "outed" was and remains a fearsome thing.

A kind person is one who will tell the truth.  He or she will be listen and be supportive without pushing or "advising" another.  He or she will absorb tears and fear and anguish and will call to mind laughter and courage and joy.  He or she will encourage freedom and success without losing him or herself.

I am kind.  I have hard edges, for good reasons.  I tell the truth, even when it's painful truth and even when it's about myself.  And I am fierce, and that's what sustains me.

Know what else sustains me?  The kindness of my family and friends.  I am often humbled by what people have done and will do for me.  My future is bright because of them.  It sometimes makes me bend over and giggle with joy.  Knee slapping moments must be celebrated, my friends!

Last week a friend discovered I was having an abundance of difficult events crowding my days, and he bought me a ticket to Texas. 

He wanted me to relax and feel cherished and beloved. 

It worked.

I slept a ton, worked a ton, and because of it, I have a solution for what was troubling me.

The joyful part of it? Last week's setbacks mean I'm going to release my app a couple weeks sooner than I planned.


And that man?  He's a work of art.  He lives kindness. And though he is physically, mentally, and spiritually strong, he is gentle.

Nice?  Not even a little bit.

Thank God.


Friday, October 23, 2015

Momma Love

I have a broken heart.

Tonight was supposed to be our annual pumpkin carving event and my son can't come. This latest in his series of choices to not be with me has effectively destroyed my hope. 

This last year has been a long journey. Though I wrote about all of it, I'm not done posting, so there are gaps in my story. I will close those gaps by the end of the year. And then I'm closing the book on the events and the emotional and physical pain of the last year. It's time. 

The one thing that won't ever stop hurting is the loss of my son - the boy who shared my love of fiction and corny tv shows, who has my affinity for people and relationship, and who loves like I do, with a heart fantastically generous. 

He has made the decision to stay out of my life until I achieve some unmeasurable and undefined standard of wellness. Meanwhile he is surrounded by people to whom I will always be the worst of what I was.  There is an element of injustice that I cannot wrap my mind around. 

And so I surrender. 

There is an ache in my heart constantly for the massive loss of the boy who is such a beautiful spirit. Some days the grief is so intense, it stops me in my tracks and I have to catch my breath. 

I don't miss my husband. I don't miss my friend. I don't miss my dad. I don't miss my career. I don't miss my friends. I don't miss alcohol. But my boy? 

Imagine the loss of a piece of yourself and then imagine that it was your own actions and choices that caused the loss. 

Yeah. I did that. 

I'm proud of my boy though. He was hurt by things I said and did. I can't take those things back or make the hurt go away. My mother's heart is broken for his pain. And because I taught him about being strong and confident and about boundaries, he was able to draw one with me and stand firm. I believe his actions are about making the healthiest decision for himself and about holding me to a standard of good behavior. Accountability is a good thing. 

But. Man. The aching grind of the grief on my heart and in my spirit never relents. 

The grief is just so painfully profound. 

So. There it is. 

"I am" says Jesus, "I am the peace the world cannot give."

There is peace in managing this pain without trying to banish it by abusing alcohol or using some other method of escape. 

There is peace in the love and nurturing of the people who knew me at my worst and love me anyway, and trust in their constant belief that the best is yet to come in my life.

There is peace in knowing that I did nothing to deserve the gift of grace in my life and there's nothing I need to do to keep it. 

There is peace in knowing that the very grace that sustains me every day can work in my boy's heart too, and that I will love him and wrap my arms around him when he comes, and I will do it without recrimination or shaming but with perfect joy. 

There is peace in knowing that I love unconditionally. 

Thank God. 


Thursday, October 15, 2015

Memes and Social Values

I built my first meme this week. It's from a photo I took while riding Harley last week in Texas. 

I like it. 

Then I made this one from a photo I took out my new front door on Monday. 

And my final first week offering is this one in support of all the men who know how dangerous pornography is to healthy relationships. 

Memes really are the new arbiters of social values. And anyone with an editor can have a voice. 

It remains to be seen whether that's a good thing or not. 


Monday, October 12, 2015

Born to Ride!

This was my view from the back of the Harley I rode all last week in the evenings when all the work was done each day.

I actually love this view.  There's the world to look at and admire.  Then there are those arms and hands.  They are powerful and strong. I'm never afraid riding this Harley with this man.  He's cautious and confident.  He would never take a risk that would result in me being hurt.  He's wonderfully trustworthy.

He also thinks I'm eye candy on the back of his bike. Can't beat that.

Well except when you drive the bike yourself.  One year from now, I will.


Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Tribute to SALT

Awww, I loved our music group.

SALT was a big part of my life at one time - and a big part of the my friends' lives too.

We did a number of public performances.  This one happened in 2008 at the Monticello High School.  We called it "Welcome Heaven's Light" and performed 18 songs or something like that.  It was heady, good stuff.  Look how young our kiddos were!

Not long after the Christmas stuff, we produced a bunch of videos with great advice for couples, added some music and some dialogue, and celebrated "The Feast at Cana" with a bunch of folks around the area.  That event was a ton of work! We sang the music, produced the show, cooked and served the meals, and danced with the folks.  Best, we were able to witness our friends and their friends renewing their marriage vows each time we performed our show.  

When we made our last cd, Chris Lommel made this composite for our group.  Our kiddos still look pretty young in that photo!! Chris was able to modify that photo for us as people came and went too.  He did a great job.

I miss the music.  I miss the friends.  I miss the service.

But people and things enter our lives for reasons, and some of them stick around for a long time while others only last a relatively short time.  This was a short timer.  


Thursday, September 24, 2015

Just Desserts

A year ago I looked like this:

My husband did that to me.

On July 14, he got worried when I reached for his phone because he was afraid I would see the pornography he had made with my former friend and the conversation between them indicating they were clearly and definitively more than friends.

That day we had been talking about our impending divorce and he told me he'd retained a lawyer.  When I said if he had one, I should have one too, I reached for his phone.  At that time, the demise of our marriage was blamed fully and exclusively on my mental health issues and alcohol abuse.  I accepted responsibility for the end of the marriage and felt bad that I had failed so completely.

Within seconds of reaching for his phone, my world turned even more upside down.

Shoved face first against the window in his office, I felt my left arm twisted so high up behind my back, my l. tore my rotator cuff.  I didn't realize it was injured at first.  Everything hurt so badly, I wasn't sure what was what.

I twisted and fought back against his restraint.  When he shoved me toward his desk, my body slid across the top of it and his office equipment (stapler, etc) flew off the other side of the desk. It all happened fast.

My husband told me that if I called Wright County for help, he would tell them I started the argument and that I hurt him and threw things in his office.  That would have been a violation of my probation, which said I needed to remain law abiding.  During the altercation, our son came to his office and he told our son those exactly lies - that I had thrown things and started the altercation.  He was convincing and that was scary, so I didn't call anyone.

I did tell my dad.  My dad looked at me sitting across the desk from him and said, "You got what you deserved."

On July 15, I got in my car and realized my husband had taken things from it, even though it had been locked when I went to bed.  He later admitted to coming into my bedroom when I was sleeping and taking the keys from my bag to take the things he wanted. I went to his car and took them back and went to the office to make copies of credit cards.  Considering they were jointly held, I am pretty sure I had the right to have the numbers so I could figure out what we owed.

When he arrived that day, he shoved me against the desk in the copy room at our office.  He had his arm around my neck but was careful not to use his hands.  He ripped the copies out of my hands and shredded them while holding my body against the desk.  He also took all the credit cards.

On July 16, the morning I read the text message between him and a person who was clearly his lover, he shoved me against the shower surround in our bathroom, again being careful not to use his hands or fists, and twisted my hands until he got his phone from me.  He had his arm wrapped around my neck to restrain me and I bit the inside of his arm to get him to release me.  The location of the bruise from my bite clearly should have indicated I did it in self defense.

That day I finally called for help.  I was severely hurt emotionally and physically.  I was afraid it would continue to get worse.  Despite all of those things, I was also marvelously relieved.  All of the sudden all the bizarre behavior and changes in his personality made complete sense for the first time in a year.  The demise of my marriage wasn't solely my responsibility after all.

I did report what had happened.  The officer took my report and took my husband's report.  My husband claimed all kinds of things that weren't true:

I did not and could not ever try to kill him.

I did not and could not choke him.  He's a foot taller than me and outweighed me by at least 50 pounds.  What?  He's choked me repeatedly since I was 17 years old.

I have never been jealous or tried to control his daily activities.  He did that to me.  He read my phone messages, read my emails, and constantly tried to catch me doing something wrong.

I was not separated from him.  We were living in the same house at the time.

I have never followed him or spied on him.  He has done that to me though.  Of course, had I, I would have discovered his affair months earlier and saved us both a great deal of pain.

I have never forced him to have sex with me.  Never.  How exactly does that work, I wonder?  Again, he has done that to me repeatedly for the twenty-seven years we were married.  In fact, he often used alcohol to achieve his sexual goals, including threesomes and public sex.

My husband lied about one encounter after another.  He later admitted he felt like he had to in order to keep his job.  He thought my dad would stand beside me as his daughter and was worried about his livelihood.

He didn't have to worry.

My dad not only failed to stand beside me, he offered my husband a place to live at that time, gives him a vehicle and insurance, provides health insurance, and allows my husband unlimited access to cash and checking accounts.  He also continues to employ my husband's family despite their abuse of my dad's generosity.  My husband has never had any consequences for having sex in the company facilities, at my father's house, or in company vehicles and equipment, or for using company resources to conduct his affair.  Far from having his livelihood threatened, my husband has continued to prosper.

Eventually my son saw the report.  I had left it on the counter the week I was going to court to face the domestic assault charges.  He was livid when he saw it.  He had witnessed enough to know his dad was lying.  My husband told my son he was going to rescind his statements.  He never has.  In one respect it no longer matters; the charges were dropped.  They will never disappear though.  And I live every day with the torn rotator cuff caused directly by my husband's actions.

I came across this meme:

In my case it wasn't the door that was kicked down.  Instead I was beaten and bruised.

And you know what?

I never, ever have to be hurt in my work place or my home again.

Praise God!

The week of July 14, 2014, was painful in so many ways.  Revisiting it today is painful.  Living with the aftereffects is painful.

But I have a propensity to forget bad things and this I need to remember.

I need to remember that I was my husband's victim - no matter how much I hate that word.

I need to remember exactly how far my husband and my friend went to hurt and discredit me.

I need to remember that using a chemical to manage my life failed.

I definitely played my part.  I couldn't deal with anything that was happening.  I was sick and struggling for certain.  I couldn't understand why so many things had changed, why I didn't feel safe, and why my husband had become my enemy.

And I didn't think I had a champion.  I didn't think I had decent people standing with me.  I didn't think I had any resources.  I didn't think I had people actively working against me and my recovery.

I was wrong, wrong, wrong, wrong!

My husband failed me.  My father failed me.  My friend failed me.  Those things are true.

What is left beyond them is immeasurably wonderful.

I am on the path to recovery.

I have chosen to forgive the people who have hurt me just as I have chosen to remember what was done to me.

I celebrate my blessings every single day.

And it feels really, really good.


Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Forever Friends

I went out with the gals last week.

It was a nice lunch.  I haven't seen these gals in about a year.

And you know what?  There's no going back!

I love my lifetime friends. I will always be interested in where life leads them and seeing their children become adults.

But I have no desire to allow any of them back in the inner circle.

That may change, actually.

Right now, I don't trust women.

Weird, right?

The first woman I trusted with my whole story is now living with my husband.  Other girlfriends knew what was happening between them and didn't tell me.  Still others judged me as lacking until they knew what Joe was doing.  Many of my friends were objects of Joe's lust over the years, which really isn't their fault, but still makes me wary.

Though I have made new girlfriends (and very darling ones, I might add), most of my close friends are men (and family, but that's different).

That works well for me because I am more like men emotionally and spiritually than I am like women.  It also works because they don't need to examine every detail of everything I say or judge my choices. Plus, when it is evident that I am a dumb girl, they are willing to help me fix stuff.

There is one that stands out of the crowd for a little different reason.

I met Dave through Plenty of Fish last October just as I had decided dating wasn't for me.  He is completely different than the main characters I've known, my dad and Joe.

He is a man who is not afraid to be a man, with deeply held convictions and strong faith. He is sometimes crude and always opinionated.  He does research and shares what he knows.  He is passionate about things and has a booming and infectious laugh. He loves letting me cook for him and he let me organize his Texas household when he moved (cooking and organizing are two of my favorite things).  He is a man who is not afraid to say he's sorry and listens long enough to know when he should be. He is a man who knows how to cherish a woman and who is not afraid to be vulnerable to her.  He is a man who has been wounded and who goes out of his way to avoid wounding others.

I love him even though I didn't mean to love him.  I trust him even though I don't trust anyone.  I take his advice even when I am pretty sure he is wrong.

And in return, he has told me that I am precious cargo.  That he can see my soul in my eyes. That I matter. That he believes I have a bright future.  That I am brilliant.  That I am beautiful. That he has never known any woman like me.  That - even though he didn't want to - he does love me.  That GOD put us in each other's lives just exactly when we could offer each other something important. That coming back to my space from wherever he's been feels like coming home. That he's proud of my successes. That he thinks of me every time he sees how I made his home and vehicle comfortable. That I'm fucken awesome.

I don't want to share the nooks and crannies of our story, nor do I want to define what's between us. What is between us is rare and incredibly valuable to me.

I just know that every moment with him somehow defies the pull of the pain of the past and the lure of dreams of the future. And in each of those moments I am free to offer him all of me without being judged or hurt or ignored.  

In exchange, he gets all of me. 

I don't want to change anything about him and he wants me to be who I am.  I feel free and unfettered. So does he. 

This is a beautiful thing for right now.

In the conversation with the gals, one of them asked me if the relationship stayed the same for the next 15 years, would I be happy?

Oh, hell yes!

I don't need another person to be happy. I am happy all alone and independent.  I am making my way into the future with great hopes of success I never imagined.  I am boldly recovering from my past and letting who I am emerge as if from a chrysalis. It would be impossible for me to be anything but happy in this whimsical new world I have created.

I do not choose to be with or love Dave because I need him.  I choose to be with and love him because it's what I want right now.  And when one or both of us feels differently, then I believe we will be forever friends.  I don't know if that friendship includes marriage or not, and it just doesn't matter.

This is an amazing sort of love. It's a God love.  And you can bet I thank Him for it every day.

That reminds me.  The verse I am living in every day is from Psalms:  I AM THE APPLE OF MY FATHER'S EYE!  Isn't that freaking awesome???? I couldn't be the apple of my earthly father's eye, but then there's my Heavenly Father!!


Monday, September 21, 2015

That Nullity Thing

I have something to say about the Roman Catholic annulment process, but I'm not ready to do that right now.  I'm productive and achieving things, and don't want to waste the time or energy necessary to say what's in my heart.


On my birthday, I got a letter from the St Cloud Diocese regarding the status of the annulment between my husband and myself. (Last year on my birthday, I received notice from Wright County that I was being charged with Domestic Assault after Joe tore the rotator cuff in my left shoulder.  I may stop going to the mailbox on my birthday in the future!)

To date, Joe has given testimony that led the Diocese to open the case.  That testimony resulted in the Diocese creating grounds for the annulment.  Once I received the letter outlining those grounds, I went and told the story of my marriage.  I had three witnesses on my list, my sister who still calls Joe her brother, a lifelong friend who knew Joe and I well, and Joe's mother.  They were all fans of our marriage and they all knew about my alcohol abuse and Joe's affairs.  After my testimony, Joe was expected to return and give his rebuttal.  I expect he has done so.

In the beginning, I wasn't going to do anything to participate in the annulment process.  I just don't care what Joe does in his life.  But my famous four (the priests I rely on for advice) all agreed it would be better to go tell my story, so I researched the process a little in preparation for appearing at the Diocese. What I discovered angered and hurt me.

When Joe made his initial case for annulment, he said things that led the Diocese to choose the following grounds for annulment:  for Joe, they were that he was too immature to make the decision to be sacramentally married (huh? he agreed to participate in Natural Family Planning, which is not for the feint of heart!) and for me, they were that I was mentally incapable of making the decision to enter into a sacramental marriage (huh?).

In recent history, I have dealt with every hurtful thing my husband and my former friend have done by engaging in self-destructive behavior. I don't blame them for that; I chose my own actions. But understanding what my husband said about me and how the Diocese interpreted it led me to choose self-destructive behavior culminating in my most recent bout with law enforcement last July.

Today my choices are different!  I examined my emotions and thoughts on Saturday and found that I don't feel any compulsion to be self-destructive.  (** Yay, God!! **)

At this point in the annulment process, I am offered the opportunity to go and read the statements by my husband, by my former friend (let's call her CC, shall we?), and by my brother-in-law.  My husband chose as his witnesses some pretty shady characters!

I already know they lied.

I already know I won't do anything about their lies.

I already know I have let go of the hurt they inflicted with the lies I already uncovered.

I already know who are the people who believe what they said and the ones who don't.

And so.

I'm not going to go read their testimony.

I said from the start of the annulment process that I only wanted to tell my story.  I wasn't mentally incapacitated when I decided to marry Joe. Truth is that I was an achiever!  I was a good wife, a great mother, a wonderful friend, an excellent student and employee, and a faithful believer. Who I became for the years between 2009 and 2015 has no bearing on who I was in 1991 - and even at my weakest moments, I was not mentally incapacitated. More on that another time.  Best, when I gave my testimony, I was merciful and honest.  After swearing me out, the Diocesan representative thanked me for being truthful about my own failings and compassionate toward my husband.

Over the 24 years of marriage, I restated my vows with Joe three additional times. We had a good marriage for many of the years. Even when it was no longer good for me, I chose to cope the best I could and stay married.  He chose something different. He also chose to forget the good and rewrite history; I believe it's the only way he could do what he did.  I do think Joe and his witnesses each stand to gain significantly from their misrepresentation of my marriage.  Joe and my brother-in-law because my dad believes their lies and they continue to profit at my dad's expense; CC because she wants the redemption being able to marry Joe within the Church will offer in terms of her relationship with her family.

Ultimately, it doesn't matter what was said or done or who lied or cheated.  The Joe and Kari years are long gone.

And I am so thankful not to have to live with my husband anymore; his person and personal habits were revolting to me by the end of the marriage.  I am more thankful that CC has been revealed for what she is and always has been. Except for the reality that he spread some pretty vicious rumors about me around town, my brother-in-law is a non-entity in my life aside from the fact that he repeatedly abuses the trust my father has in him.

I'm not really sure yet how this whole process will play out in my relationship with the Church.  I have believed from the first that the annulment would be granted.  I don't have an issue with that.  I do have an issue with the grounds in this case - and with the lies offered up under oath by my husband and his witnesses.

Justice and Truth would demand that I am not found mentally incapacitated.

Yet real Judgement is not ours - and, with all due respect to the Church - it is not theirs either. Rather, it belongs to God. And that makes it easy to let it go.

I did what I set out to do and told my story. I forgave those who intentionally set out to harm me.  I am on a journey of discovery and recovery.

This new world of truth and transparency, of love and redemption, of faithfulness and grace is worth the struggle it took to get here.  I'm not going back to what was.


Tuesday, September 8, 2015

Music and the Power of Prayer

Prayer for me begins and ends in music.

Tonight I am sharing that with some of my friends in my treatment program.  When they talk, I hear music.  I've long believed it is how the Holy Spirit talks to me.

This is the song list and the lyrics that compelled me to include the song:

Glorious Day by Casting Crowns
One day the led Him up Calvary's  mountain
One day they nailed Him to die on a tree
Suffering anguish, despised and rejected
Bearing our sins, my Redeemer is He
Hands that healed nations, stretched out on a tree
And took the nails for me.
I was feeling rejected and reviled by the people who should have been loving me most.  And then I heard the lyric: hands that healed nations, stretched out on a tree and took the nails for me.  My prayer that night was for forgiveness.  I was taking the responsibility for everything that was going wrong without understanding that my husband and my friend were actively engaged in a relationship and in trying to manipulate the people in my life for their own gain.  Still, for what I brought to the table, I was blessed with forgiveness.

Worn by Tenth Avenue North
I'm tired, I'm worn; my heart is heavy
From the work it takes to keep on breathing
I've made mistakes; I've let my hope fail.
My soul feels crushed by the weight of this world.
Oh man!  I was crushed, broken, and bleeding - figuratively at that point.  I sent a link for this song to my husband when I was on a mission trip in Duluth, Minnesota.  He forwarded that song to his partner in infidelity.  Did they enjoy my pain?  My sense of being lost?  The feeling there was nothing left to even inspire prayer?  I sure hope not, but if they were, the Adversary certainly won a victory in them - though not the battle, I hope.

MUCH later, the other lyrics came to the forefront:
My prayers are wearing thin; yeah, I'm worn
Even before the day begins; yeah, I"m worn
I've lost my will to fight; I'm worn
So, Heaven, come and flood my eyes…
Let me see redemption win!
Let me know the struggle ends!
That you can mend a heart that's frail and torn
I wanna know a song can rise from the ashes of a broken life
And all that's dead inside can be reborn
Cause all that's dead inside will be reborn.
Hope, my friends, is priceless when it feels like everything is lost.  Shame on my husband for sharing the vulnerability I offered him.  My vulnerability is mine, and only mine, to share.

Feel the Nails by Ray Boltz

I was continuing to make bad choices.  I understand now that I would still be making bad choices if not for new things I've learned.  And my heart ached for Jesus - the broken and beaten Jesus who stretched his arms…
It seems that I'm so good at breaking promise
And I treat His precious grace so carelessly
But each time He forgives what if He relives
The agony He felt on that tree?
Does He still feel the nails every time I fail?
Does He hear the crowd cry "Crucify!" again?
If He does, how can I continue to fail?

Find My Way Back to You by SALT

My band had a great song about being lost.  I listened to it often to hear these words over and over:
Lost and broken, seems like my whole life just gives me pain
Spend my time just looking' for an answer in this rain
Lord, send me someone, a Friend of Yours, to help me through this day
To take my hand, to dry my tears, to help me find my way…Find my way back to You!
Ironically, the vocalist is the same person who was sleeping in my bed with my husband and puppies and lying to my family, including my children and my father.  But you know? She had my husband sleeping in her bed too, while lying to her family, including her children - two young people I loved their entire lives.  Maybe she really meant the words she sang.  Maybe that's our ongoing prayer; she needs to find her way to God or back to God.

Regardless of her needs, I know I wanted to find my way back to the loving embrace of our heavenly Father more than anything!

Lord, I Need You by Matt Maher

And this song gets the full boat - the entire lyrical prayer:
Lord, I come, I confess, bowing here, I find my rest.Without You, I fall apart; You're the One that guides my heart.
Lord, I need You, oh, I need You.  Every hour I need You.My one Defense, my Righteousness.  Oh God, how I need You.
Where sin runs deep, Your grace is more.  Where Grace is found is where You are.And where You are, Lord, I am free.  Holiness is Christ in me.
Lord, I need You, oh I need You. Every hour I need You.My one Defense, my Righteousness.  Oh God, how I need You.
Teach my song to rise to You when temptation comes my way!And when I cannot stand, I'll fall on You; Jesus, You're my Hope and Stay.
Lord, I need you, oh I need You.  Every hour I need You.My one Defense, my Righteousness.  Oh God, how I need You.
After that heartfelt cry for mercy, that submission to the will of my Father, and that complete relinquishing of control of anything I thought I controlled, my heart turned to songs of redemption and hope.  

But that's part two, and a story for another day.


Found in Part Two:

He Will Carry Me by Mark Schultz
Blessings by Laura Story
Jesus, Friend of Sinners by Casting Crowns
You Are More byTenth Avenue North
Your Grace is Enough by Chris Tomlin
Whom Shall I Fear? by Lincoln Brewster
Arms That Hold the Universe by 33Miles
Thrive by Casting Crowns
Greater byMercyMe
Fight Song byRachel Platten

Saturday, September 5, 2015

My Fight Song

Ohhhhh, yeah!
Prayer and hope always comes to me first in music; I've said this before many times.

Staci sent me a link to a song by Rachel Platten.  It's called Fight Song and it is PERFECT as a new theme song, and a battle cry.
This is my fight song;
Take back my life song,
Prove I'm all right song!
My power's turned on;
Starting right now I'll be strong.
I'll play my fight son.
And I don't really care if nobody else believes!
'Cuz I've still got a lot of fight left in me.
Oh, yes I do!

As for the rest?  Give it a listen.  Here are some more lyrics:
Like a small boat on the ocean
Sending big waves into motion.
Like how a single word can make a heart open.
I might only have one match, but I can make an explosion.
Losing friends and I'm chasing sleep; everybody's worried 'bout me
In too deep; say I'm in too deep,
And it's been two years; I miss my home!
But there's a fire burning in my bones… Still believe, yes, I still believe!
And all those things I didn't say, wrecking balls inside my brain
I will scream them loud tonight: can you hear my voice this time?
This is my fight song; take back my life song,
Prove I'm all right song!
My power's turned on; starting right now I'll be strong.
I'll play my fight son.
And I don't really care if nobody else believes!
'Cuz I've still got a lot of fight left in me.

I have things to say.

And yeah.

I've still got an awful lot of fight in me!

Friday, September 4, 2015

Writer's Block

Sometimes I hear about people who can't write.

They sit down and the blank sheet of paper in front of them taunts them with its empty whiteness.


I have the opposite problem right now.

There's so much to say and so many topics flooding my mind, I don't even know where to start.

I thought about writing about happy memories of my marriage.  I need to do that for my own sake; it was a good marriage for many years.  For many more years as it started to decline, the good still outweighed the bad.  It was only at the very end, with the advent of she-who-doesn't-deserve-a-name, that the marriage died.

But I don't feel like writing about that. It'll come on a day when my husband isn't vile to me.

I thought about writing about two of the greatest injustices that happened over the last year.  I even scanned the two documents in preparation for writing about the day my husband lied to Wright County deputies because he was afraid to lose his job and the day he lied to the state of Minnesota because he wanted to deny me my right to income.

But I don't feel like writing about that either. There are days I need to write about what has happened and there are days I need to leave the past in the past and the future in the future and just savor the moment.  Today's one of those days.

I thought about writing about all of today's blessings.  I'm not sure why it's happening, but God is pouring blessing over me.  He's sending the right people at the right time.  He's keeping my bank account healthy.  He's making my world colorful and vibrant.

But I don't feel like writing about that.  Those blessings are rolling around in my mind.  I'm still processing and treasuring each thing like a basket full of shiny new toys.

I want to write about a friend I made.

He's a challenging person for many reasons.  He's opinionated and strong-willed.  He's been wounded and wounded others.  He's changing his life for the better every day and managing it well.

He's also kind - but not nice.  He's tolerant and indulgent - but not patronizing.  He's incredibly smart - but not superior.

Over the months he has told me I am "precious cargo" and that I have a "million dollar smile."  He loves my sense of humor and thinks I am beautiful inside and out.  He tells me I matter.  He believes in my future and wants to invest in it.  He is genuinely sorry when he does something insensitive, and he admits when he is wrong.  He listens to me when I talk (until I talk too much).  He tells me he finds peace with me.  

He has never tried to tell me how to talk or how to behave.  He has never hurt me to prove his own strength.  He has never belittled my faith or convictions because he doesn't understand them.

I am constantly perplexed by how this man cherishes me, and I have no idea how to deal with someone who treats me so well.

So.  Know what I'm going to do?

I'm going to savor this moment without thinking about the past or worrying about the future.

And that, my friends, is peace.


Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Renewing My Mind

I am learning so much in this wonderful program at Minnesota Teen Challenge.

I am learning that I will never change my behaviors until I change the way I think.  Like others in my program, I suffer from self-hatred and have engaged in self-destructive behaviors.  If I am going to be fully healthy and capable of positive decision-making, I need to love myself.

I have hated myself for a long time - maybe my entire life.  Those feelings didn't happen by accident. I was rejected by my parents as a child, dominated by a demeaning father and jealous husband as a young woman, and betrayed by trusted friends as a mature woman who should know better.  Those people failed me, and they are horrible people.  I am working my way to forgiveness for their bad behavior, and will eventually be ready to ask forgiveness for my own bad behavior.  Still, especially at this point, allowing them to dominate and dictate my own feelings of self-worth is a choice I have continued to make.

Loving myself might be simple.

It may be just as simple as acknowledging that I love myself, and then repeating that all day long every day.

Maybe it's partly about fully engaging in my treatment program - both the group and individual sessions and the homework, and seeing myself as valuable and worth saving.

It could be that I just need to meditate on the Word.  God tells us all the time how much he loves us.

I'm not exactly sure how I'll get there yet, but I will.  I know I can do it. I know it because Psalm 17:8 says I am the apple of my Father's eye.  And today I read this:
Because Jesus Christ redeemed me I am a new creation of infinite worth.  I am deeply loved. I am completely forgiven.  I am fully pleasing.  I am totally accepted by God.  I am absolutely complete in Christ. 
I don't have to follow any list of rules for Christ to love me  - or to love myself.  I don't have to be "better" or perfect or even not failing.  I don't have to do anything.  I can and SHOULD be myself.  I am fully pleasing!

The people I have allowed in my inner sanctum concur. My auntie told me how excited she was after I saw her at Rotary the other day: "When you smiled, I felt so excited.  You're back!  We have Kari back!"  My sister has been a Godsend too; she is excited for recovery and wants to revel in the joy of her family - me - again.  My best friend tells me every day that he can see how different I am: "I am so proud of you for the direction your life is moving, and being able to witness it firsthand."  And my undefined friend (hahahaha) tells me I matter, that he can see how happy I am, and that he loves my spirit.

Strangers are even excited for me.  Someday I'm going to write about this phase in my life and I'll be able to talk about the investors.  It's enough for now to say that people believe in me, trust that I am about to be massively successful, and are all-in for the ride.


Boggles the mind.

No one has ever said with such conviction, I believe in you.

And you know?  I treasure every person who is standing here beside me.

I treasure this journey of self-discovery, painful as it is and as laden as it is with confronting difficult emotions and the reality of the things I have done and failed to do.

And most, I treasure that I am able to make myself a priority and a project.  I have never failed a project, and I'm not about to fail this one.

My husband doesn't like it.  He thinks I am writing about him.  I am not.  I am writing, as I always have, about my journey.  As someone who was a part of my life for twenty-seven years, who helped shape the person I became, and who threw me away at my weakest moment, he ought to recognize my right to heal.  And, I guess if he doesn't, too bad for him.  This is my story to tell, and I have the right to tell it.

My husband betrayed the secrets of my heart.  He forwarded intimate pictures of me to his lovers, one of whom published them on the internet.  He mocked me and shamed me to my friends and family, including my sons.  He bruised my body, my spirit, and my mind. He lied to law enforcement about me and told my sons he would rectify those lies; he has not.  He lied to the state of Minnesota about me.  He re-wrote the entire history of us to make me appear monstrous, feeble-minded, and solely responsible for the demise of a good marriage.

I don't accept any of that.

And maybe that is how I learn to love and respect myself.  Maybe it is in the revelation of the secrets that hide sin.  Maybe it is in the rejection of his portrayal of me.  Maybe it is in the freedom to finally tell my story.

I am renewing my body, my spirit, and my mind.

It feels good.


Sunday, August 30, 2015

The Weird and the Wonderful

Last night I was finally able to go to one of Jakob's baseball games.  End of the season it may be, but there we have it.

It was fun to be back at baseball.  My son is a talented man.  And his giggles after the game refresh my spirit.  I was hoping he would rub Staci's face in his sweaty pit, but she kept a safe distance.

It was a weird night too.

For the first time, my husband was at a ball field as part of a different family with my former friend.

And you know?

I don't feel mad at them or hate them or wish them ill.  Instead, I feel a strange sort of compassion for them.  They both looked miserable.  Washed out and old.  Unhealthy.  Unhappy.  The kind of heavy that suggests they are eating the worst sort of diet.

At a time when I am stepping into the brightest future I never even dreamed of having, have they reached their pinnacle?  Has the best already happened?  Is this, then, as good as it gets for them?

If so, that's really sad.

My day surprised me in a multitude of ways.  And then something amazing happened.  It's so amazing, I can't even wrap my mind around it yet.  I'm left wondering… was God waiting for me to let go of my hurt and anger over the betrayal of my husband and the betrayal of my friend so my life could be open for even bigger and better blessings?

Dang.  Our God is most definitely an awesome God.


Wednesday, August 26, 2015

And Then, There is Mercy

Today was an important and scary day for me.  

I went to court for disposition of my latest legal issue:  probation violation.

My probation conditions seemed fairly simple and straight forward when I agreed to them last February 27, 2015.

I pled guilty to the charge of Obstruction of Legal Process - Interfere w/Peace Officer, Statute 609.50.1(2).

To be frank, I didn't know that what I was doing was an obstruction of legal process. It's a fairly broad definition, in fact. 

Once I was made aware, I pled guilty to the charge, admitted to understanding the officers were trying to help me the day they arrested me, and accepted the terms of probation.
I was doing a good job for the conditions.  Until I didn't do a good job.  

After my sexual assault and arrest in Avon - a story for another day - I did as instructed and contacted Wright County Probation.  I was told to come to my scheduled appointment in August, and I did.  It would have been my last required meeting with Probation for the two years.  I was informed during that session that another agent had discovered my arrest in Avon and reported my arrest to the court; a judge had signed a Warrant for my arrest the day before my meeting.  My Probation Agent advised me to voluntarily turn myself in, which I did.  After being fingerprinted, photographed, and booked, I spent the night in Wright County Jail.  That arrest was reported to the Monticello Times under the original charge rather than a probation violation.  It's sort of sad to me that I wasn't even embarrassed.  My life in the criminal system is very surreal.

The next morning I went before the judge and pled guilty to violating the condition to abstain from alcohol use.  The other charges for failing to remain law abiding were dismissed.  I was able to leave jail on my own recognizance with another Alcohol Monitor and an agreement to follow the probation rules.  I also agreed to return to court for disposition (sentencing).

The prosecutor asked the judge to sentence me to 30 days in jail as a consequence for my violation.  My lawyer had warned me I should expect that, but my heart sank.  

My lawyer asked for ten days in jail, and talked about my history and the facts and circumstances of my husband's behavior with someone who called herself my best friend.  He talked about the impact of that on my own behavior. He recalled how my intention last February was to "follow the rules" and simply abstain from alcohol abuse.  He explained how the first thing I told him when I saw him in Stearns County was that I wanted help and that I "couldn't do this myself." He called me intelligent and successful in most areas of my life, and requested that the judge listen to me talk about my treatment program.  

And I did.  I had prepared a written statement so I wouldn't forget what I wanted to say.  This is what I said:
In the last two years, I have made choices that were self-destructive, and I made those choices believing the only person I was hurting was myself. 
When I was here in February I committed myself to following the rules.  I was convinced I would be easily able to follow the rules for probation since I’ve been a rule follower all my life.  I failed at that time to examine what it was that caused me to choose alcohol and other self-destructive behaviors.  I have learned that until I change the way I think, I will continue to choose those same behaviors over and over again.  I do not want that to be the story of my life.  
In July I followed my self-destructive pattern after receiving some fairly devastating news.  In the ensuing days, as I confessed the truth to my support network of friends and family, I learned that what I have been doing has hurt people deeply.  Remaining sober has become – for me – a moral issue.  I am committed to remaining sober for the rest of my life, not just because there is a great risk of more punitive consequences, but because I want to be well and whole, and I definitely want to stop hurting those people I love.  I recognize that eventually I would wound them enough to lose them.  That would be horrible. 
My 20 year old son came home last week, and I greeted him as usual.  He said the following words to me:  I am so proud of you.  You have taken every single negative thing that has happened to you and turned it into a positive.  You don’t complain or blame.  And even with everything you have going on you still want to know about my life and encourage me.  You are the strongest person I know and I want to be like you when I grow up.  
If that amazing young man can love me like that, I should be able to love myself enough to stop the behavior that is destroying my life. 
And I will.  
I am attending an out-patient treatment program at Minnesota Adult and Teen Challenge on Mondays, Tuesdays, and Thursdays. My treatment plan is aggressive and comprehensive:  not only is there an individual therapy session and group sessions, there are assignments that make me stop and reflect.  It’s already a painful – but also very hopeful – journey. 
I also implemented other lifestyle changes:  I ran 28 miles last week, and have a 32-mile goal for this week.  I am eating clean and have lost 17 pounds.  I am actively seeking a new faith community while remaining connected with my current one.  And I am taking time every day for meditation or reflection, journaling, and art therapy. 
I would like to request that jail time is imposed in a manner that allows me to continue to attend therapy while also following all the guidelines in my care plan, including continuing my existing therapies, physical activity, clean eating, and completing assignments.  
I am also my sole financial support, and have some very important deadlines for my new business and the product I am developing. I hope to manage the consequences here in a manner that allows me to continue to pay for my home and support my son.

Unfortunately, I cried.  My body was visibly shaking.  It is intimidating to stand before a judge who gets to have dominion over your life.  It is potentially humiliating to share the secrets of your heart and the sadness of your story in front of strangers.  To do it while crying and shaking is not something I would ever choose for myself, but I wasn't humiliated.  The path that I am taking is right for me, I feel strong and well, and I am going to share my story with everyone who will listen.  Recovery is possible!

When I cried, I wasn't crying for myself.  I cried for the bright light that is my son.  He has seen me at my worst and he still loves me with his whole boy heart and longs for me to be strong and well.  He is yet a boy - but so much a man, and a better man than any I ever knew.  I am so proud of him and his heart.  He gives me hope that my bad behavior will fade from his memory and he will learn things about dealing with adversity and people who fail us in profound ways.

After I completed my statement, the prosecutor and my lawyer had a whispered conference.  The prosecutor then requested that rather than incarceration, he would request 30 days of alcohol monitoring to help through these initial stages of treatment that are so difficult for so many people.  My attorney agreed that would be an acceptable alternative and I had nothing to add.

The judge said that he had intended to assign 24 days in jail for my violation.  But he didn't.  With great mercy and an eye toward furthering my treatment plan and schedule, he granted me the reprieve of 30 days of alcohol monitoring.  My treatment will continue.  My lifestyle changes, directed by my treatment plan, will continue.  My work on my business will continue. The hard work is only just beginning, but at the end of the path, I will be a new creation - not who I used to be, but the me I was meant to be.  

When I sat down to wait for my paperwork, a stranger across the aisle leaned over and whispered:  "I am SO proud of you."  So I lost the battle with the tears.  It's hard to take people being kind and maintain control of composure under those circumstances.

I know this:  every person who was a prayer warrior for me created today's outcome.  The people involved were surprised by the outcome, including my new Probation Agent who told me in today's meeting that she fully expected I would be spending time in jail.

God is so incredibly good and his mercy rains on us all the time.  

I did not walk away from today's events with any sense of "beating the system" or manipulating people or even "getting my way."  

I walked away with the sure conviction that I would have been sentenced to 24 days in jail without God's mercy and love.  With his grace, the people with dominion over my life heard the words that were spoken. Today was a complete victory for choosing healing over punishment.  And that is a beautiful thing.

Incidentally, we don't have to do anything to be worthy of God's mercy and love, and we cannot do anything to make it go away.  But it sure feels good to know he's got his eye on me, his arm around me, and his angels protecting me.

Peace.  Peace.  Peace.