Posted in Faith, Family, Stepfamily

Marital statistics

If you’re like me, you hate stats. I know that sounds harsh, but hear me out.

I don’t like them simply because I believe people can beat odds, no matter what the numbers are (I’m a Christian-miracles happen daily and often). I’m not a math whiz, and never figured out a really cool formula, so I’m pretty sure that THAT fact alone may keep me out of the statistical nerd bracket. If you’re a bean counter and love numbers, formulas and theorems, I do envy you, but my strength has always been more in language.

However, something interesting to me was a few stats I read from a stepmother blog. I’ll share with you an excerpt from the “Stepfamily Love Maintenance” edition from February 25. The blog opens with numbers, then shares a few practical ways to stay in touch with your mate, and make time for each other, because obviously life and other things can get in the way.

Let me state that our children are not an interruption in our lives in any way, but they do take time away from quality spouse time. Hence, one of the obstacles marriages have to overcome; how to NOT lose each other when family takes precedence. Christ says spouse first, then family, then yourself.

“Most of us know that the divorce rate in the U.S. hovers around 50%. For every re-marriage one has, the divorce rate goes up. So second marriages are in greater danger. Third marriages in even greater peril, etc. If one or more partners has children from a previous marriage the divorce rate spikes to 75%. There is very controversial research that says if a brand new stepmother enters a family with stepdaughters ages 12 to 17, the divorce rates shoots up to 99%. This research does not include families in which the stepmother entered the family when the children are young.

Scary numbers, right?”

http://becomingastepmom.wordpress.com/2012/02/25/stepfamily-love-maintenance/#wpl-likebox

The hardest stat to accept was the one about a remarriage that has two teenage daughters. Guess which bracket I fall into? Unfortunately (yet fortunately for me), Kevin is on his third (and last) marriage to me. I’m on my second. He has two teenage daughters, so if I believed what I read above, I should be closing out a bank account and looking for someplace to live. Seriously…99%!?!?

However, I feel empowered by this statistic. Truly empowered, challenged and motivated more than ever before. And here’s why: I dated Kevin, knowing that he had earlier issues that have been dealt with, he didn’t truly know Jesus (he was raised Catholic and felt something was missing) and he longed for the intimate, caring part of a relationship that he had never had. All he kept telling me was that he wanted a best friend.

I had weaknesses that grew out of insecurities and a verbally abusive first marriage. I, too longed for someone to be my best friend. I didn’t want to go down the “bar” road again, though. I knew the person I wanted to share my life with, would allow me to be myself, have faith in Jesus and let me worship with wild abandon. I need freedom to write, sing, and be worshipful, without being judged and scoffed at.

Kevin never laughed at my faith. He was encouraged by it, and often encouraged me to learn more so that we could talk about it.  I would read my bible and complete a bible study and then talk about it with him.  We grew in Scripture and learned how some of our behavior was unacceptable.  We learned of true repentance, asking forgiveness, and letting God renew our minds from the inside after we accept Him as Lord.

It is through these faith talks that God opened my eyes to his hurt and gave me a love for Kevin that I never imagined I could have. And Kevin saw in me, the best friend he’d always longed for. We are the other half of each other, yet wholly unique and full in Christ. It’s awesome!

Kevin and I overcame many obstacles in our five-year (so far) friendship. And we grew to love each other, love Christ, and give Him all the dark parts of ourselves. So, entering a committed marriage, knowing the ODDS were against us, seemed like nothing, since we gave our lives to Christ and are loving and supporting each other daily.  That’s not to say that there aren’t trials and heartaches.  We have them, but hardly ever with each other.  It’s usually other people in our lives that tend to put stress on us, but we in turn, TURN TO GOD AND EACH OTHER, and hold hands, knowing it’s all or nothing.

If one of us stands, so does the other.  We face things head on.  We don’t run, we don’t play ostrich, we don’t pretend things didn’t happen.  We are raw and real. And I think that the foundation we’ve built, in helping each other through some tough struggles at the beginning of our relationship, and the glue of Christ, will help us beat the statistic that the world is almost hoping we won’t make it.

I love my two teenage stepdaughters.  Are they perfect?  Absolutely not.  Am I? Goodness, no…not even close.  But do I live a life now that is honest, fair and forgiving?  Yes, and with Christ’s help, Kevin and I can last forever, until we are called home.

If you fall into one of the statistics above, I pray you are seeking Christ in your decisions.  Satan WILL try to separate the marital bond. Remember we are dealing with things unseen, not so much the humans that carry out some of the evil.  Satan hates unity, he hates love and he hates God.

Newsflash: If you represent God, then he hates you too.  He doesn’t want us to succeed.  But I’m aware of his lies and deception.

So, stand firm on the truth of the gospel, pray often and daily with your spouse, for each other, your loved ones and the lost, and never give up.

May God build a fortress around the THREE of you, and when you are called to serve, step carefully from your tower, knowing God has you in the palm of His hand.  He will not let Satan have you.

I believe in the power of prayer, the power of the gospel of Jesus Christ, and the love that Kevin and I have for each other. Nothing is getting through these walls!

Posted in Faith

Taking chances

Five years ago today was a sunny, cool Saturday in North Olmsted, Ohio.  I was twenty-six years old and scared, yet excited.  Around ten in the morning, I was standing in the living room of the house that my husband and I had bought two years earlier, and was starting to move boxes into cars and trucks of family members and friends.  All of my belongings had been stacked into the corner of the room for quick and easy loading.  I was moving into my new apartment down the street.  My husband knew that I was leaving him, so he went into work that day.  He was still in shock that I had signed a lease to move out.  I knew he didn’t hate me, but he wasn’t supporting my decision.  It meant we would have to admit we truly had marital problems.  So, at my insistence, we were going to attempt a separation.  To me, it was the Christian solution to an unhealthy marriage, to see if we could salvage any part of our seven year relationship.

After sipping some coffee to get started, my mother, sister and brother-in-law helped me load up their vehicles.  Two really good friends grabbed furniture and loaded a pickup truck.  We worked tirelessly until every piece of furniture was in the apartment, and then everyone left me to unpack.  Within four hours, everything I owned was in my new apartment and I was free from my husband.  That last sentence might sound puzzling to some, but to me, it is justified.

The feelings I had in that initial first moment alone were incredible.  I was frightened, fearful and doubtful.  Had I made the right choice?  I was also excited because I knew some friends were taking me out that evening to celebrate my new step, but I was also feeling sorry for my husband.  He would return home to an empty home and hardly any furniture.  It would be a new step for him too.

My now ex-husband and I had many differences and we had allowed alcohol and distrust to separate something that quite possibly could have been something of value.  He was controlling and manipulative.  He was insecure in his own skin and overbearing.  And the worst part was that he didn’t see it, nor did he want to address it.  I too, had a laundry list of sins that I was working through and some that I was also not addressing, and it was just a toxic environment.  Something had to give.

I had to leave to grow. 

I felt sheltered and stepped on.  I was insecure as a result, and completely empty.  I believed in God and knew that He loved me, but I wasn’t living a noble life, nor was I proud of the shell I had become.  Leaving my husband to seek some peace was my first step at doing something out of the ordinary and I was hoping to have a resolution with my then husband.  I figured time apart would heal wounds, create love where there wasn’t any, and maybe God could fix us.

In the weeks that followed, my husband would call me to tell me that he was so alone, that he couldn’t go on without me, that it was hard to live…and for a while, I believed him.  Three weeks after I had moved out, he invited me out to have a drink with him (it was his 32nd birthday) and we talked.  He was still remorseful for his controlling behavior, for his lack of knowing how to love me, and for his lack of trusting in God.  My biggest complaint was his need to get affirmation from his coworkers who had drinking problems.  He chose them over me, and broke our covenant.  I was forgiving, but also run down from the mental and verbal abuse over the years.  His words meant nothing to me at this point.  I told him that I wasn’t seeing anyone, that I was still faithful, and that I was hopeful that our year apart would be fruitful and not without some merit.

I had just been let go from a job due to lack of work for me, and was waiting for unemployment to kick in.  I didn’t ask for money from him, even though he was still financially liable for me.  I sat next to him at the bar watching his mouth move, but inside I felt so sorry for this person I once thought would be the father of children I was certain the Lord would bless us with.  As he played his game of trying to woo me back to the house so that we could “kiss and make up”, I remember feeling a strength inside of me that I didn’t know I had, and for the first time, I stood up before he did, said, “No thanks” and just left.  It was his birthday and I’m sure he felt I owed him something, but I was beginning to change internally.  God was working in me, and even though I wasn’t constantly aware of His presence, I knew that I was spiritually protected.  Walking down the stairs of that bar leaving him with his mouth open was priceless.

Two weeks later when I thought we were going to meet to go over the separation paperwork, he invited me to the same bar to talk (I probably should’ve been skeptical at that point) and as I entered the establishment, there was a blond girl sitting extremely close to him, with her hand on his mid-thigh.  I was taken aback and was caught completely off guard.  I sat down next to his friend and ordered my beer.  It was awkward to say the least.  These two guys had gotten off work, met up with a woman who was comfortable enough with my husband to stroke his thigh and I was obviously the soon-to-be-ex-wife.   I was the outcast.  Why was I sitting there with them at all??

Then a light went on for me.  This was his way of showing me that he could move on.  I realized we would not be speaking about lawyers or separation terms at all.  I proceeded to drink beers (many of them) and do shots with the bartender.  I said some things I didn’t need to, but it didn’t matter.  My husband and this woman got up to leave, and so did his friend.  I could hardly see straight I was so angry.  I kept drinking while they left.  Then I started drunk texting him some horrible things.  I became self-destructive.  And I let Satan win that night.

After probably six drinks and multiple shots, I drove (assumedly all over the road) to the house that I had moved out of a month prior, threatened his new girlfriend and asked her to leave since my name was still on the house.  She refused and I grabbed my ex and physically pushed him against the side of the house and told him that he didn’t know who he was messing with.  He was three inches taller than me, and at least seventy pounds heavier.  He looked scared and I was asked to leave, so I got into my car, peeled out of the driveway and drove back to my apartment a complete wreck.

That night, I cried myself to sleep.  I realized that I was the one who wanted out of the marriage. I was the one who left.  I had chosen to rent another residence so that we could repair what we had built.  I believed he was able to be trusted and that he was still being faithful to me.

I, however, was the only one who wanted a commitment that would last. 

And for the first time, I also sadly realized that I had chosen a man who didn’t want anything I’ve listed.   He was simple and only wanted a woman on his arm.  And because I was asking for him to consider my feelings and goals, I was in shock because he had replaced me within a month’s time frame.

There was a woman in my house, laying next to my husband, who had a Harley in MY garage parked right next to his.  I could never compete with that.  That would never be me.  I wasn’t that type of girl.  I was a Christian who wrote short stories, downloaded music, met up with friends for drinks here and there…I would never be the barhopping wife he wanted who would help him please his ego.  He had chosen what he wanted, and since he couldn’t control me anymore, he moved on.

And the next morning, I woke up to a restraining order.  This quiet Christian woman who just wanted peace, had created havoc the night before, and now was being told to not return to the home my name was still legally attached to.  I was never violent with him; my words are my sharpest weapon.  What had I done?  And yet, it was a wake-up call I needed.

I write all of this to help myself see the difference in who I was five years ago, and to reassure myself that even though my intention to leave my husband was initially temporary, it was also the step I needed to see who he truly was.  We screamed and argued for years.  We dated (if you call it that) for six full years before getting married, and I still chased after him for a year and a half even after obtaining his last name.  The man didn’t want a devoted wife, he wanted a trophy.  He wanted someone who would dress provocatively so that it would draw attention to him.

I wasn’t that woman.  I still am not that woman.  I didn’t/don’t need public affirmation.  I just wanted a home with a dog and a family.  I wanted to write and serve God and do things with family.  He wanted parties every weekend  with friends sleeping over so we could rehash the craziness of the night before after we woke up with hangovers.  We were living two different lives under the same roof and I was oblivious because of my dreams (delusions?).

I believe I fell in love with the idea of being in love with him, but not who he was.  I’m not the first woman to do that, and I won’t be the last.  But we really need to know these things before entering into relationships with men.  They don’t need the expectations, and we don’t need the heartache.  We need to step into relationships when we know that the man is a man of God who will treat us as God would.  Or the best he can, this side of Heaven.

I also write this as a way of therapy.  This morning waking up and looking at the date, I am reminded of my independence.  I am reminded of my family reassuring me that God would forgive my divorce because I was biblically released, that I would be blessed for leaving an unhealthy marriage, and for starting over so that Christ could live in me and manifest Himself through my life without fear of what my ex would think.  I wanted to grow spiritually.  Living in that home, I was never able to do that.

I made many mistakes.  I drank a lot.  I smoked more cigarettes than I had in years.  I craved the bar scene and couldn’t stand to be alone in my apartment.  I worried about my ex, what he was doing, what he wasn’t doing, etc.  I filled my hours with beer, “friends” and “friends with benefits”.  Some nights, I was alone, other nights, I let the alcohol numb me and I shared myself with a few men in drunken situations because it filled my carnal needs.  Total shame.

Thankfully over time, I developed the realization that I was a person of value.  I was/am a child of God and God desired for me to be loved, but not like that- not in the arms of men who wanted my body but who didn’t care for my soul.  It has taken five years to let God revitalize the shell of who I was, and I am forgiven.  I am new.  It feels awesome to write that!!

I took a chance to save my marriage, but six months after I left, I lost it.  My ex husband and I were finalized by May and my name was off the house as of 7/7/07.

The road I’ve walked to get to where I’m at now is paved with a lot of tears, bloodshed, regret and sadness, but during that time, I was being renewed through Christ.  I lived on my own for a time, worked some bartending jobs, and met a lot of new people.  I never got an STD or ended up pregnant.  I put myself in some scary situations and had to learn how NOT to tell lies.  Slowly over time, I was growing in the Scriptures.  I learned the value of communication.  I learned to love others.  By April of 2007, I was going to a church in Elyria, Ohio.

I craved God.  I craved being around people who would help me instead of help me hide my pain.  I struggled with drinking the moment I left my ex-husband.  I got a DUI three months after leaving him.  I spent a weekend at a hotel as part of my sentence.  I met a man who was a great friend, but who had his own issues.  I started a new job.  I started dating said friend and began to learn many new things.  I had a love for cooking and being in the kitchen.  My brother and his wife had a new baby girl and I was craving time with them.  I began to spend more time with my parents.  I was reading my bible.  I was broke at times, and rich at others.  But this entire time, God was changing me and renewing me.

Reading Joel chapters 1 and 2 gave me a perspective of God’s great love for us.  Yes, US…every single one of us, who has walked (sometimes stumbled in a drunken stupor) off the path, and questioned His greatness, His presence, His judgement, His love…HE LOVES US.  He is slow to anger and abounding in love.

I was a wreck when I almost had a second DUI.  I had to do another weekend for 72 hours and attended the same program.  The coordinator of that weekend class was in awe.  He remembered me.  His first question was why was I there, and why would I attend the same class again?  Had I learned nothing?  I remember sitting across the table from him saying that I did indeed learned something, and I was on the road to recovery.

I had taken chances by walking away from a marriage, I had taken chances on drugs and alcohol, and I had taken chances on people I know would leave me the next morning.  I was ready to take a chance on love and hope.  He said he was proud of me, and I walked out of that hotel a changed woman back in September 2008.

I’ve rededicated myself to Jesus Christ.  I am a sinner who was once lost, but MAN have I been found!  I still mess up.  My words are still my worst weapon.  But I am aware.  I am now a wife and stepmother who knows the meaning of selflessness all too well.  I am simply me and I have forgiven my ex-husband.  I have forgiven myself and I have forgiven my past.  I have married again simply because I believe in love, forgiveness, trust and hope.  And I believe my new husband believes the same.  He is a man of God who has taught me much.

I guess through all of these ramblings, what I would like you to take away from it is if you are ever uncertain on whether to take a step, take the chance.  I’m not saying to walk away from your marriage or a job because you get mad at it.  But I am saying that if you are feeling that something is out-of-place, it’s okay to question it.  It’s okay to step out in fear, but end up leaning on Everlasting Arms.  Life is risk.  Love is out there.  Fear halts us and removes hope, but Jesus gives life.  He restored the years the locusts had eaten, and then some…simply because I took a chance…