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When I first met you – Courtship, Part 1

Having over 160 pages of my husband’s and my story written down, it’s difficult to condense our story into a readable amount. But here is where I will try my best to do just that.

The First 6 Months

Year 18 of my life was strange. I was often told I was very mature for my age, but I never really knew what that meant. I would get cautious compliments on my accomplishments, but rarely did anyone take the time to draw me out. I had three friends that I kept up with, but everyone else either was never available to talk, or I had to fake my way through a shallow conversation. When I met Daniel* I pretty much wrote him off as another shallow guy, but there was something about him that intrigued me. We had just started going to a new church, and a mutual friend of ours introduced us. I met him while surrounded by my crazy siblings. I tried to find him on facebook later that night, but with no luck (I found out later he had his profile private). He never really left the back of my mind over the following two weeks. When we started chatting online two weeks later, there was a little click. I was still intrigued about something, but I couldn’t put my finger on it. Looking back, I can say that I definitely liked him from the start, but I wouldn’t have admitted it then.

In the midst of dealing with my parents, the stress of trying to finish school, and being in a ridiculously stressful job, Daniel started becoming my voice of reason. When I met him, I was coming to the end of two years of doctor’s appointments for my FM and those drs visits were increasingly depressing and discouraging. I would often get off work at the library, get online there and chat with him for two hours before heading home. The first 3 months of getting to know Daniel were refreshing, and we clicked almost instantly. Our chats are over 300 lines long, and we were constantly in communication of some sort. I figured out that I could send texts to his email, and since he was online all of the time, we would text/e-text back and forth for hours on end. I would hear from him first thing upon waking up and a text from him would be the last thing I read before falling asleep at night. This was all happening just 3 months after meeting him. I can see clearly now how much we liked each other from the start….:duh moment:

My family went on vacation that December, three months after we had met. I didn’t know if I would have wifi for my laptop, but we still texted through the vacation. A few days into the week, I asked him to cut back on texting me. I didn’t want to give him the wrong idea (gag me now) and I knew I was falling hard for him the more he communicated with me. He eagerly agreed to text me less, and hoped that he hadn’t “led me astray.”  We tried to cut back the text messages. We really did! It was so hard though. Really hard. Because of Daniel’s strict conviction of not talking to any girl on the phone unless it was for business, or because he was going out with her, I didn’t talk with him at all on the phone for the first year of getting to know him. There were many times that strongly frustrated me, but I’m getting ahead of myself.

Allow me to back up a few steps and give some background. As I have mentioned before, I grew up under the ideology that courtship was the only way Christians did relationships. I read all of the right books, even some marriage books that were highly recommended by friends and mothers of my friends. Even though my parents were not involved with any of my friendships, I still tried to be careful with any guy friends I had. I can list the number of guys I’ve had crushes on on one hand. All of those friendships were one on one friendships, and I quickly outgrew my crush as I got to know them better. Only with one of them had I ever had a “let’s define this friendship” talk. That guy was just all over the map when it came to girls, and he had quite a trail of broken hearts behind him. I was quite determined not to be one of those broken hearts…and I’m not.

When Daniel came into the picture, I had already pulled back a lot from the other two guys I was pretty good friends with. Part of the reason for that was not wanting to become emotionally dependent on them, but also because I was withdrawing deep into a dark shell. Daniel came into my life right before I shut the door on any new friendships. You could say he made the friendship cut.

So when I told Daniel that I wanted to cut back on talking, I had several reasons for doing so. He had told me the previous week that he wouldn’t get into any relationship until he was done with college, and the next girl he got into a relationship with was going to the girl he married. I knew I liked him at this point, but I also knew that things were going to have to slow down or else this all going to blow up and we were going to be heading down the path he said he wouldn’t until he was out of college.  He had all four years of college ahead of him, and I knew neither of us were at all ready to support ourselves financially. It just couldn’t happen…yet.

I got back from vacation, and we went right back to our previous level of communicating. If anything, we probably talked more than before. I spent more time up at the library, and we started leaving voice mails for each other. We really figured out all of the ways technology allowed for us to keep in contact without actually talking over the phone. Daniel became the one thing that helped me get through most days as I sunk deeper into a very dark pit. He very quickly figured out that my family was dealing with some pretty dark things, and instead of running away and leaving me to my pain and ignoring me, it became his goal to make me laugh at least once every day. He listened when I cried about having a discouraging doctors appointment, and he encouraged me when I said I didn’t feel like talking that day. When we were together at church, he was the one who stayed by my side when I was in a lot of pain or having a really bad fibro-fog day. This guy was an absolutely true friend, and he is a precious gift.

Around March he told me that he wanted to take a week to cut back on all communication except for email, and only when I was online. He told me that he needed to take some time to figure out his and my friendship, and what my place was in his life. By now, I was 100% he liked me a lot, but he wouldn’t and didn’t admit to anything.  At the end of the week, the mutual friend who introduced us was having a birthday party that we both were invited to. I should probably mention that when talking with one of my closest friends about Daniel, she had cautioned me to not get too attached, because that would end badly. I told her not to worry because I knew things were right where they should be, also, I knew this guy was special. She didn’t believe me, so I stopped talking about Daniel to my friends. His name rarely came up.

The birthday party as a big question mark for me. I was going to know at this party where Daniel and I were going next with our friendship. I knew it would either just fade away and become nothing more than an acquaintance-ship or we were going deeper. I called my friend and told her that I wasn’t sure if I was going to come or not. I didn’t tell her anything about Daniel, but I was very nervous and anxious about seeing him after a week of almost no talking. At the last minute on the evening of the party, I decided to go. My stomach was entirely made up of butterflies and I could barely contain my heart as I rode over to the party. This was it. This was the first of many turning points in our friendship.

I got there early and helped my friend’s mom finish up with getting the food set up. I was so nervous my hands were shaking. I finally heard Daniel’s voice in the hall and I just about fell apart. He came around the corner, and it was then I knew.

We were moving forward.

*Name changed


To doubt or not to doubt

(Please feel free to read my fellow bloggers’ take on this subject in our three part posts.  here is Joanna’s,  and here is Hännah’s)

 

I grew up under the mindset that to doubt Jesus meant to doubt my salvation, the bible, my faith, and that Jesus is real. I remember being a newly baptized 8 year old, crying on my bed because I was disobedient and I needed to be baptized again because I had sinned. Even though I was thoroughly reassured by my mom that I couldn’t lose my salvation and that I didn’t need to be baptized again, that fear that if I doubted, or messed something up big time, I would lose favor in Jesus’ eyes.  So as I started really questioning the church, my bible, and seeing my faith with eyes damaged by my dad’s hypocrisy, this fear started crippling me, and I felt trapped; stuck.

I knew I was watching my “faith” fall apart, I knew I was no longer comfortable reading my bible, attending church, or even talking the talk. When I tried to explain to someone what I was feeling, I felt like I had to quickly reassure said person that I wasn’t running away from God; in fact, I was running to Him! The looks of cautious disbelief I got were numerous. Seriously, though, was I running away from or to God? Deep in the recesses of my mind, I didn’t know. I still feared the conditionally loving God I thought I knew.  The questions that ran through my mind were overwhelming and yet I still tried to block them out and pretend that all was well. Those questions soon became like trying to hold oil in my hands. I couldn’t hold on to them, and they started affecting more than just wanting to not go to church.

The increasingly fearful and uneasy feelings I felt caught me off guard. I began to accept that I was doubting, but I still couldn’t put my finger on why I was doubting, or what I was doubting. I knew it had something to do with my past, my dad’s hypocrisy, and the beliefs I had willingly swallowed since I became a Christian some dozen or more years ago.

A friend lent me Rachel Held Evans’ book, “Evolving in Monkey Town“. I kept coming across things and saying yes, I agree with that, yes, I can totally relate and understand what she is talking about there. Even if I agreed and felt like I could relate, I still felt like there was more to the answer for my doubting. Then it hit, and through three different outlets, I got the same answer, all within days of each other.

Through a long email chain with a friend, she told me how her mom had told her it was okay to question, that that meant your faith was becoming stronger and was growing deeper. Through multiple blogs and many posts, I started seeing the same thing; it’s okay to question. It’s okay to ask, challenge, and doubt your beliefs. All of this sounded so good and was a relief to hear, but I was still stuck on the fear of doubting God and losing my faith; I was still stuck feeling like there was more to this.

I got the end of “Evolving in Monkey Town”, and that’s where I found my epiphany; I found the answer. Up to finishing the book last night, I still clung to the fact that I knew I wasn’t doubting God, I just didn’t know how to put into coherent words the doubt I felt. The fear of doubt was no longer strangling as I discovered how much Jesus loved me. I discovered that He will love me no matter what. He is the author and perfecter of my faith, and that faith will never be taken away from me. All that matters to my faith is the fact that I love because I have been loved first with a love that is deeper and wider than any figment of the imagination. Everything else is piddly details that many Christians get caught up with and oftentimes forget that we are loved and have been given a wealth of grace and mercy.

Rachel writes,

Doubt is a difficult animal to master because it requires that we learn the difference between doubting God and doubting what we believe about God. The former has the potential to destroy faith; the latter has the power to enrich and refine it. The former is a vice; the latter is a virtue.

This is what I couldn’t put into words. I was not doubting Jesus as I first thought, but I was doubting the fundamentals of my faith, my beliefs. I was, without realizing it, becoming a Berean and was no longer content with just accepting what I was taught, but was questioning, trying to probe deeper to come to a conclusion about why I believe what I believed.  To doubt and question what I’ve been taught is to throw my faith through a refining fire to burn away the false ideas that have taken root. To doubt and question my faith keeps my faith active instead of allowing certainty to freeze it and never allow for any growth.

My past with my dad and his influence to my faith is very toxic. Trying to question and rebuild my beliefs is like trying to get rid of a poison in my system but my system still craves it. This is not normal for me, nor is it comfortable. I wasn’t encouraged to question my faith growing up. I was given the mindset that once we reach a certain stage our faith will remain the same and constant.  I was taught not to question, not to dig deeper and constantly evaluate what I believed.

This epiphany was relieving, it was helpful, and has given me a break in the frenzy of doubts and questions that have been flying around my mind. I can now say with doubled confidence I am not doubting Jesus, I am not doubting His love for me, I am not doubting my salvation. I am doubting the beliefs I was raised under; I am doubting the things my dad would say and then do the opposite.  I am rebuilding the foundation everything else will stand upon. Jesus is my only foundation, and I want to get back to that place. I do believe that this is going to be a long journey, but I’m not worried anymore. I’m not feeling crushed under doubt I don’t understand. I understand where I am at, but I do not know where this all will take me. I am willing to question, doubt, and wait to see where I go. I do know it’s gonna be good.


Let Justice Be Served

Yesterday was a down-in-the-dumps day for me. I felt like I had hit another wall in this healing process, and it was freaking me out. I felt confused, lost, unsure of everything, and really discouraged. The deeper I go towards healing, the harder it gets to let go of who I used to be. It gets harder to step forward and trust that I’ll be okay. I don’t hit these walls often. Usually it’s only because I’ve started thinking again and trying to work things out.

Spiritually/emotionally I have no idea where I am right now. I simply look at my bible, and all I can hear, see, or remember is my dad’s hypocritical teaching, contradictory messages, and it leave me scrambling between places, unsure which is the truth and which is not. It’s dizzying, it’s mind boggling, and over all, it’s enough for me to walk away from my bible for a very long time. The two things I know for sure right now is that my faith is not dependent on whether or not I’m faithfully reading my bible, praying daily, or attending church each and every Sunday. The other thing is that I know Jesus loves me no matter what and He is faithful, He is loving me, and He is not going to hurt me, leave me, manipulate me, or force me to obey Him. He desires me; broken, hurting, lost, confused, weary me.

It is has greatly helped getting out of the SGM church we used to attend. I no longer feel pressured to fit into a certain mold. I am instead feeling love, grace, and mercy from people who are genuinely caring for me.

Several things happened this morning that has changed my down-in-the-dumps attitude. After the news about the SGM lawsuits came out about two weeks ago, I immediately sat down and wrote a long email to the senior pastor at the church we just left. My family still attends there, and I had a challenge for him. He had sent out an email to the church, and said that they, the pastors, take very seriously protecting children in abusive situations. My challenge for him was if they take that so seriously, then how come my siblings were deteriorating being under my dad, and are still in an abusive situation. It was a very long email, and one that was blunt, truthful, and challenging. I heard back from the pastor within 24 hours, and shortly after getting his response, I got a response from my parents’ pastor. Because my dad has been in counseling with the pastors for the four years that they have been going there, I also challenged the pastors on why my dad hadn’t been put in church discipline yet. I mean, come on, he has been addicted to porn for the past 30+ years, been married to my mom for 28 years, and has had kids for about 22 years, lost two jobs because of the porn, and has physically abused several of my siblings, and constantly lashes out in anger. How is that not cause enough to put him in church discipline?

I was surprised to get a response so quickly from the pastors. I have been trying to defend my siblings, sometimes unwanted on their part, for the past six years. How was yet another email/meeting/conversation going to change things? Writing my last post about being a defender caused things to get stirred up for me. I felt depressed and discouraged. I felt weary of bringing up my concerns again and again with no result. How was this time going to be any different?

After emailing back and forth a few times with my parents’s pastor, I finally said I could be convinced to meet with them, share my concerns (yet again!!), but I really didn’t see the purpose, nor did I want to meet. I knew walking back into that church was going to undo everything I’ve been able to work through since leaving. I have not stepped foot into that building for about 3 months now, and that has not been long enough. I haven’t heard back from the pastor again since telling him that I would be willing to meet only if the meeting could be specifically about my siblings and my dad, and if I could bring a friend/supporter with me. I thought that was it, and I expected this email exchange to be the same as every other time.

There was a curve ball that came out of all of this, and when I got a phone call from my mom this morning, I did not expect to hear what she called to tell me. About 5 months ago, my husband and I met with my parents’ pastor and shared concerns about how they were treating my dad too lightly, and to ask when church discipline was going to happen. The answer was that they were starting to lean towards church discipline. Not a definite, but they were definitely considering it. The months following that meeting didn’t bring any change, and I soon gave up hope that anything would happen.  That’s why, when my mom called, I was pleasantly surprised and realized I had done something to change things.

My parents met last night with the pastors, and their care group leaders, and my dad was told he was being put in church discipline if he did not repent. He was read a list of 6 reasons why they are putting him in church discipline, and there will be another meeting a week from today to challenge him again with those reasons and ask him to repent. My mom is finally, I believe, starting to see him for who he is, and not allowing her denial to cloud her judgement. As usual, my dad is blaming my mom for this church discipline stuff, and my mom is not taking it this time. I do not expect my dad to change, and I expect church discipline to come down hard on him. They already are coming down hard, and I am impressed that their pastor apologized for not taking these steps sooner. Now if only my dad won’t talk his way out of this. He’s one messed up guy, and I hope Jesus will be able to break through and show him his works will not save him, nor will his words, or legalistic beliefs.

I have gone from the deep lows of yesterday, to giddy heights today. I am unsure what to expect from my dad, but I hoping against hope that my siblings will get the care they need, and that my dad will be separated from them. In the mean time though, I will be taking my mom out to a bar, or maybe a spa, and giving her a break from the crappy mess my dad makes for her. I am disgusted that he still has the audacity to blame her for his faults. Let justice be served, Jesus!!!!

With that in mind, and without further ado,

Chryssie Rose


Where is my Defender?

Psalm 68:5 – father of the fatherless and protector of widows is God in his holy habitation.

Being the oldest of  large family has placed a heavy weight on my shoulders. I have never felt that weight more strongly than when one of my siblings, or multiple siblings, are in any sort of danger. As more of my siblings made their appearances while I grew up, the heavier the weight became, until one day I was faced with the stark realization that I had missed my childhood.  I was never a carefree, happy little girl, kicking up her heels in the sun, and running through fields of wild flowers.  I had to be the perfect example for my siblings, and I needed to be in charge so they didn’t make daddy angry, or make mom upset.

I was my siblings’ parent.

I was their defender, their warrior.

I protected them.

But no one protected me.

No one told me that I wasn’t supposed to be mother, father, protector, or defender to my siblings. No one told me that it wasn’t normal to be very mature for my young age, or that I raised my siblings while my mom dealt with the youngest children. This was normal for me, and this is how I grew up. I know it’s not good to have had so much responsibility for my siblings, but I can’t give back what has already been placed on me. I do not regret having had so much responsibility, for it taught me to love much, and it gave me the strength to handle big situations. It has made living marriage that much easier when it comes to budgeting and keeping meals on the table.  I am good at what I do because I have done it all of my life. I know how to cook good, healthy, hardy meals.

I know how to stand up for and defend my friends, my siblings, my husband. I know to become the mama bear when someone mistreats anyone close to me. I know because I have been doing that all of my life.

I have a heavy weight when it comes to my siblings, and I would fight to the ends of the earth to keep them from being damaged any further by the man who is their dad. I fear for them because of how hard it has been for me to break free from my dad’s influence over my faith, my life, and my health. I have taken the brunt of my dad’s influence, but I couldn’t always protect my siblings from being grabbed and dragged to sit in the bathroom when they disobeyed. Nor could I protect my sister from being dragged by her hair half way up the stairs because she talked nasty to me. I have alternately felt like a failure when it comes to my siblings, and feeling helpless and angry at the injustice they have endured.

Even though I am married, and no longer see any of my siblings on a regular basis, I still go through spurts where I feel like the weight has grown. It is heavy and frustrating when none of my other siblings seem to take me seriously, or believe me when I get upset over their plight. Am I seeing things? Am I being too emotional and making things up? I feel alone sometimes in bearing this weight. My heart breaks for my siblings, and I pray that they will one day be able to heal from my dad’s abuse.

I am once again contacting the pastors in charge of my family, and begging, challenging them to heed my siblings’ pain. I am weary of bringing my issues forward and not feeling like anyone is paying attention to me. I will not give up on my siblings, but I do get close to doing so many times.

Wearily,

Chryssie Rose


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