Through the Lens of Grace: Dave’s story, Part 1

My husband, Dave, has been working on writing this for a couple weeks now and, although he is not finished telling his story, I figured I would go ahead and share this portion. I pray his raw honesty and vulnerability in opening up and sharing about something he kept secret for over a decade encourages someone who may be in this same trap, feeling as if there is no hope of freedom. There IS freedom and this is Dave’s story of how he found that freedom in Christ Jesus.

11:00 PM, January 22, 2014

My cell phone rang as I was going to sleep. It was work. I didn’t want to deal with it. January was a peak time at work since my job there involved a lot of corporate tax work. My life pretty much revolved around making sure a million or so W-2 forms made their way through the postal system before January 31, but on this day I’d had enough. I decided it could wait until morning.

Elaine thought it was weird that I’d ignore a call, so she asked who it was. She was on high alert, and rightfully so. She had found out my years-long pornography addiction just over a week ago.

It was her. What Elaine didn’t know, but was about to find out, is I didn’t come fully clean when she caught me watching porn. To be totally honest, I didn’t even connect the two things right away, but I had been involved in an emotional affair off-and-on for a couple years (?) with this person. Over the past week I had become more aware that there were issues in my life to deal with besides pornography, but I was attempting (failing) to deal with them without bringing them out in the open. And Elaine did know enough about the person calling me to be triggered by my non-answer. Thank God.

September 1999

I could spend all day going over my life from age 1 to 15 and how my experiences and choices led to an incorrect view of relationships and sex. By age 4 I had a warped sexuality, and at age 5, I learned the wrong way to experience closeness with females. I’ve always been too smart for my own good, so I learned early to hide things I was ashamed of. Therefore many of my issues never came to light.

I’m not certain when I first saw a fully nude woman, but I do remember when I first encountered Playboy magazine. At 14 years old, I had just started high school. It was my sister’s senior year, and she would drive me to school. One day after school, a classmate of mine passed me a magazine. I knew what it was, and that I’d be dead if anyone saw it. I jammed it in my backpack and left it there.

That night I was too afraid to even bother opening my backpack. I felt like it was a live grenade. I just hoped my parents didn’t go through my stuff before I could get rid of the thing.

My sister drove me to school the next morning. I sat in the back because she was giving one of her friends a ride as well. My curiosity overcame me, and in the relative privacy of the back seat I saw parts of people I’d never witnessed before. I’m not sure whether I was more interested or terrified, but as soon as I got to school I tossed the magazine into a trash can. Why? I knew it was wrong to look at that stuff, but the real reason I threw it away was fear of being discovered.

The single greatest form of motivation for me was pride. I didn’t want to get caught.

2000 – 2006

The pridefulness that led me to throw away that Playboy would stick with me for another decade and a half. Pretty soon after I got rid of the Playboy I discovered the anonymity of Internet porn. Now this was a temptation I could not resist. I had a computer with a connection in my room, and I was a lot better at lying and hiding than my parents gave me credit for. I discovered the adrenaline rush of masturbation, and I experienced the emptiness and shame that follows it. But it wasn’t enough to stop me, because the next day the temptation would be there again, even stronger. Then I discovered the callousness that follows prolonged exposure to sinful habits. I stopped feeling anything at all for a while, and I knew that my addiction was the reason. But I couldn’t stop. It poisoned my relationships, and I had no defense. I could have gone to my parents, but remember that pride thing? I would rather have died than anyone find out I was one of those freaks. If only I knew how many people dealt with this around me.

Proverbs 22:14 speaks about the “adulterous woman,” describing her as a trap, or a deep pit. Don’t make the mistake of reading passages like this one too literally. They speak for many forms of sexual immorality.

Parents! Don’t give your children the opportunity to fall into addiction! Be nosy! If you stop it now you may save your child’s life. Their pride may very well be keeping them from asking you for help, and they will eventually be thankful (if not immediately) for your boldness!

That addiction would eventually lead me into sexual confrontations that I wasn’t ready for and follow me into adulthood.

January 26, 2006

This day is important, because it’s the day I met my wife Elaine. At this point I had struggled with sexual sin for nearly a decade. Elaine and I started dating in June and were engaged by October. During our engagement, I confessed to Elaine my struggle with pornography. It was a particularly difficult thing for me to do, and unfortunately I didn’t understand enough about my problem to recognize that pornography wasn’t my root issue. That said, Elaine helped keep me accountable, and through the first year or so of our marriage I was able to abstain from pornography and masturbation. It’s important to mention this, because for a year and a half I believed I was healed. Imagine my frustration  18 months (give or take) later when the old habit crept back in! Because I didn’t recognize the root problem, I never dealt with it or took steps to keep it at bay. Eventually, after dealing with infertility issues that came with a great deal of emotional stress, hard times came. In response, I returned to my old patterns of isolation and selfishness.

Through the Lens of Grace: Dark Days

The immediate days after January 22 were pure survival mode for me. All I knew at this point was I wanted to keep things as normal as I possibly could for my girls even though their Daddy wasn’t coming home at night those first few days. I couldn’t think of the future. All I could do was survive the next minute. I went through the motions of being a mother to my girls, taking care of their needs, even though inside I felt dead.

I have very few memories of late January and February. I do remember I did what I had to do to take care of the girls and when I would put them to bed at night I would walk from their bedrooms and straight to my bed where I would lay for hours. It was all I could do. I had expended all my energy taking care of the girls. I didn’t leave my house for 9 days straight. Didn’t get dressed. Didn’t shower every night like normal. At night, after the girls were in bed, I would lay on my bed and listen to the song “Oceans” over and over again.

I love to write. Since age 15 I have kept a journal. My journal has turned into 40+ notebooks full of my writing. It’s how I process life and work things out. It’s how I center my thoughts upon God during hard times. I had my journal out on the bed with me but, for the first time since age 15, there were no words. At a time when I didn’t even have the words to be able to write down my thoughts and feelings about what I was going through, that song spoke volumes to me on those long, dark nights. I listened to the song over and over into the wee hours of the morning when my body would finally give in to sleep for a few hours.

Dave wasn’t living at the house, but in my effort to keep things as normal as possible for the girls, I started letting Dave come home “after work” and be there through dinner and bedtime routines with the girls. He would leave immediately after the girls were in bed. I couldn’t look at him in the eyes or even speak to him. He was there for the girls. They were so young they never knew the chaos surrounding our family in those days. I am forever grateful that God gave me enough clarity of mind to think about my girls and what was best for them through this time of separation for Dave and me.

About 9 days after all of this happened, I got dressed and left my house for the first time since my world fell apart. I was going to a counseling session with my pastor’s wife (who is a counselor by profession) and on the way I was going to stop at a store. It was one of those surreal moments when you realize your world has come to a crashing halt; yet the world was moving all around me. The world seemed normal! The sky was still blue, the sun was shining, people were in cars moving along the road going to where they needed to go. People were in the store shopping. Everything was normal.

I felt like a fraud. I appeared normal, too. I was dressed and put together. I could smile a fake smile and it looked genuine to a stranger. And when the clerk said, “And how are you today?” and I replied with the expected answer of “Fine!” I knew I would forever view the world with different eyes than I had prior to January 22nd.

I was anything but fine. I began to wonder who else in this world is walking around with a tremendous burden on their shoulders yet appears like everything is “fine” on the surface?

That outing truly changed my perspective of people forever. I don’t remember much about my counseling session that day except that I was a puddle of tears.

Several months ago when I was thinking about what I wanted to share as I told this story, I really didn’t want to go into much detail about these dark days. I still don’t think I adequately described what those first days and weeks were like. I don’t know that I would ever be able to do that. Going back to this time was very necessary in telling this story. Only after knowing the bleakness of this situation can you see the beauty that came and fully appreciate it. This story is no where near over!

In my last post several of you said that I am brave for sharing this. I suppose it did take some courage to be able to put all this out there, but the ultimate reason I have opened up about this is for God’s glory!

When God created the world, He created a perfect world. When sin entered the world in the Garden of Eden after Adam and Eve overstepped their boundary forever alternating the relationship of God with man, God has been working a plan of Redemption from that time to present day.

The first time we see God’s redemption is right after the fall of man when God kills an innocent animal to use as covering for Adam and Eve. Before the fall, they were unaware of themselves. After the fall, they hide in shame and fear. In God’s mercy for his creation we see the first picture of the shedding of the blood of the innocent (the animal) on behalf of the guilty (Adam and Eve). (Genesis 3) We can see this picture all throughout Scripture, right up to Jesus who paid the ultimate price, once and for all, for mankind’s sin. Jesus was innocent and shed his blood on behalf of the guilty (you, me, everyone). (John 19-20)

Scripture tells us we are going to have troubles in this world, but that we should take heart because God has already overcome the world. (John 16:33) If we have a Biblical Worldview of life, we know that our trials of today are temporary and our trials ultimately bring glory to God.

The greatest truth about God that I believe I have learned through infertility and now infidelity in my marriage, is that trials in my life are not about me! If I step aside and surrender it all to God, He is able to do miraculous works that bring glory to His Name! He can truly take the bleakest situation I can imagine and redeem it in ways that are only possible through the work of God in my life.

More than anything in this life I want the world to see God through my life for His glory. That is why I share about the darkest time of my life. It gives purpose and meaning to the most devastating season of my life. Even in those dark days, God was at work.

Through the Lens of Grace: Discovery

There is no easy way to continue to the next part of this story, which is the reason for my delay.

On January 22nd I discovered that my husband had been living a secret life that I was not aware of and life as I knew it ceased to exist in that moment.

I will never forget walking into our bedroom, his cellphone in my hand, and thinking “My marriage is over”. The despair I felt in that moment cannot adequately be described with words. It was gut-wrenching, life-stopping physical, emotional and spiritual pain all wrapped up in one, big, ugly mess that, at the time, seemed utterly hopeless and doomed to death – the death of our marriage.

I had to leave my house. It was the middle of the night but I could not be there. I got in my car and drove to my best friend’s house. I had walked a similar journey with her 5 years prior. I couldn’t bring myself to knock on her door so I sat on her front porch, sobbing. It was mid-January around 2am so it was very cold outside that night. I was not dressed for cold weather yet I wasn’t cold in the least bit. I am the type of person that wears a sweater and thinks it is “cold” when it is 70 degrees but on this night I was numb even to the weather.

I was numb physically, emotionally and barely hanging on spiritually. As I am thinking back to that night (which I obviously don’t like to do) I can remember now that in the midst of sitting in the cold, and crying, I sang a song. I do not remember what song it was but I know now that was my way of reminding myself that God was going to show me through this raging storm that I found myself in.

My best friend heard what she thought was a dying cat outside and she came to the door to investigate and found me. I fell into her arms after briefly telling her what had happened and she held me up and began praying over me.

Even though she had to get up and go to work the next day she sat up with me all night. I kept telling her “I don’t know what to do.” It felt like an out of body experience. My heart broke for my girls. A broken family was the last thing I wanted for them. I kept thinking about how all of this was going to change their lives forever too. They were so young, just 4.5 and 2.5 at the time.

Around 6am I left her house and drove the 3 minutes to my parent’s house. I knew I was about to shatter their world too. Me knocking on their door at 6am was enough to tell them that something bad, something very bad, had happened. We talked for a while and then I knew I needed to leave and go home and get my girls.

I arrived home around 8am. I didn’t think my heart could break any more but I knew I needed to tell my husband that he needed to be out of the house by the time I returned with the girls that evening. It all felt so bizarre.

The girls and I spent the day at my parent’s house. January 23rd, 2014 – the longest day of my life. The first day of my new normal. Life had changed in an instant. I felt dead inside. I wanted to crawl into a ball and go to sleep and pray the nightmare was gone when I woke up. But I had my girls to think about and I had to pretend like life was normal for their sake.

My mother got in touch with our pastor’s wife who is a counselor by profession and she made me an appointment with her for later that afternoon. Honestly I don’t remember much at all about that first meeting with her except this.

I turned to my mother in the car and I told her that I knew God was going to somehow get me through this and no matter what happened between Dave and me, I would one day stand before our church and proclaim His faithfulness through this situation.

That’s all I had! Every thing else was blown away in one moment of discovery. My faith was the only glimmer of hope I had. Everything else around me was dark and bleak, hopeless, broken and crushed to a million pieces that seemed unable to be repaired in those first desperate moments.

My memories are foggy after the initial moment of discovery and the hours after that because I was in survival mode. I couldn’t eat, I couldn’t sleep. I felt dead; yet I was pretty sure I was still alive and living every woman’s worst nightmare.

At some point, maybe a day or two after January 22nd, I remember my pastor called me. I was standing in the foyer of my home looking out the window talking to him. The only thing I said was “Pastor, I just don’t know what to do.” I clearly remember hearing him say, “Elaine, you have to do what the Lord tells you to do.”

Through the Lens of Grace: March 26, 2014

March 26th, 2014. 4:30pm. It was a Wednesday afternoon. Naptime was over and, being that it was Wednesday night, I had the girls in the bathtub for an early bath time since it was Awana night at church. The girls were playing and I was getting myself ready when my cell phone rang.

I looked to see who was calling and saw that it was our adoption agency. Immediately my heart started racing because there was no reason they should be calling but I already knew in that instance why my phone was ringing…

“Hello.”

After the small talk I heard what I knew our adoption attorney was going to say, “She says she’s about 15 weeks pregnant and she wants you to adopt the baby.”

Emily had not clarified who was pregnant this time so I stopped her and said, “Wait. Who? Which one?” even though in my gut I already knew.

“Tracy.”

It didn’t matter who it was at that point. My heart sunk, still beating out of my chest, and my defenses went up.

I knew there was no way possible we could adopt this baby. No way.

Another adoption was no where near in our immediate plans for our family. In fact, just two weeks prior to Emily’s phone call on that Wednesday afternoon, I had gathered most of our baby gear and baby toys and sold it to various people who replied to my Craigslist ads. I was very proud of the money I had earned by selling all our baby things because I knew it would completely cover the cost of our homeschool materials for the next school year!

As Dave and I would toy with the idea of a third child, Dave was absolutely positive he was content with just having two daughters. I always felt torn. I had always wanted 4 children, but the reality of that seemed far fetched given our infertility. Since Dave knew he didn’t want any more children, I started trying to convince myself that we were in fact done. However, in our discussions about this, I would always tell Dave if we ever got a call about one of our daughters’ birth mothers, that would be the only time I would want to consider one more domestic infant adoption because it would rip my heart out to say no. He would always say, “Well, let’s just hope that doesn’t happen.”

And then it happened, but in the instant I heard the news, I knew there was nothing to discuss.

Oh, my heart wanted to say yes with absolutely no hesitation but as my mind quickly replayed the circumstances of our life since January 22nd, 2014, my mind knew what the answer had to be. There was simply nothing to discuss. To say yes to this would be irresponsible.

As much as I wanted to say yes, I knew we had to say no.

I hung up with Emily and walked from our master bathroom across the room and to Dave’s office corner of our bedroom.

I was angry. Not at him. Not at anyone but our circumstances. I spilled the news to him and then, like I expected, he said there was no way we could adopt this baby. I knew it. He knew it.

The girls were ready to get out of the tub by this time, so I headed back to the bathroom but my mind stayed on this baby.

It’s hard to explain the instant connection to this baby that I felt. My rational husband told me that we didn’t have to adopt this baby simply because it was Tracy’s baby. I knew that, but I still cared deeply for this child…because he or she was a biological sibling to my daughter. If the baby couldn’t be placed in our home, I desperately wanted to see this child placed in a loving home with a mother and father that would teach this child to love and serve the Lord.

I remember saying to Dave over and over again that evening that I wished our circumstances were different so that we could say yes. But then I would tell him, “But, honestly, I really don’t want a newborn at this time!”. With our youngest nearly three we were transitioning out of the baby phase and moving towards a new season of having school-aged children that we were going to homeschool. I was looking forward to starting our homeschooling journey in the Fall when Little Bug would officially start Kindergarten and bringing a newborn home at that time was no where in my homeschool plans.

While the decision to remain a family of four could have been an obstacle we could have easily removed in order to say yes to adopting this baby, the events surrounding January 22, 2014, left no room for even discussing the possibility of adding to our family at this time.

Life was a mess and adopting now would only make it messier.

Through the Lens of Grace: The Time Has Come

The time has come for me to tell Sarge’s story. Today is March 26th and tomorrow is Easter. Both of those days hold much significance in his story. It was March 26th of 2014 that we first learned about Sarge and Easter is all about God’s redemption for His people.

It’s hard to find time to come here and write. It’s hard to find any sort of quiet in my life in this season and I need quiet to write! I realized the other day that there is so much noise in my life right now that it is hard to even be still and know that He is God. This isn’t from a lack of faith but from living a life that keeps me on my toes from the time my feet hit the floor in the morning until all three of my children are tucked in for the night. The chaos can still be raging all around me, but I can find that quiet spot where my heart is still and knows that God is God.

During a quiet moment, I was thinking that I am living the season I longed for when I began this blog nearly eight years ago. My infertility days seem a lifetime ago. A different world. I am so consumed with my children these days that it is hard to even believe that there was a day in the not so distant past when I wondered if I would ever be a mother.

What a journey the past 8 years have been.

I was once told that deep joy can only be measured by deep sorrow and pain. We can’t fully understand and appreciate deep joy until we have walked through a season of deep sorrow. Sarge is one of the greatest joys my life has ever known; but the season of his birth is the most painful season my life has ever known. It is going to be very hard for me to write but this is a story that I must tell.

If I had to summarize the past eight years of my life in one word it would be surrender.

My journey has taught me God doesn’t want me to do anything except surrender to Him.

God first brought me to that place of surrender on March 8, 2009. Maybe some of you reading this were around even back then and remember that defining day in my journey. All fertility treatments had failed and I was told my chance of pregnancy was extremely low – even with fertility treatments.

Adoption had been on my mind for several months. God was preparing my heart to move towards adoption upon hearing this news even though I didn’t want to give up on my dream of pregnancy.

I found myself at the place of surrender. Was I going to surrender my everything – my dream of pregnancy – to God or was I going to continue to fight and try again to conceive?

I chose surrender and it has radically changed my life.

You never fail choosing God and His plan for your life. The past 8 years have blown me away as I have watched time and time again God do miracle after miracle in my life.

God is good and all He does is good! That is a foundational truth found in Genesis when you read the story of Creation. All God created and did was good and perfect until sin entered the picture.

From that moment, God has been working a plan to redeem His people. He promised Adam and Eve a seed that would come to crush the head of the serpent. (Genesis 3:15) Tomorrow is Easter! This is what Easter is all about…God’s redemptive plan for His people! God is always working for our good. (Romans 8:28) He has plans to prosper us and not to harm us, plans to give us hope and a future. (Jeremiah 29:11)

But we have to get ourselves out of the way first so God can do His work.

That is where surrender comes in to play.

We lay our hopes, our dreams, our plans, our desires at the feet of Jesus, trusting Him to show us His plan.

We’ve come through some very deep waters over the past 2 years and God has shown Himself faithful every step of the way.

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The story I am about to share is nothing short of another miracle. Actually, two miracles. God has worked in ways only He can work and moved mountains only He could move.

Through the Lens of Grace is a story of redemption for my husband and my son and how God taught me to look through the lens of grace – God’s Grace – as I walked this journey with them.

Year in Pictures

It’s been a couple years since I have done a “Year in Pictures” post. Here are a few tidbits of our 2015 in pictures.

January ~ Dave turned 30! Despite the fact we were just coming out of survival mode from Sarge’s birth, I managed to throw together a Surprise Party for him. It was truly a surprise as he had no clue!

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February ~ Our 3 little Valentines

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March ~ Sarge was born with a birth defect. He had surgery to fix the defect and was in the hospital four days. His surgeon said the outcome of his surgery could not have been more perfect and for that we are very thankful.

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April ~ He is Risen! Happy Easter!

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May ~ Little Bug turned 6! She has matured greatly over the past year. She is still a spit-fire but we’ve captured her heart and she truly does desire to please the Lord and her parents. Little Bug is in 1st Grade and enjoys all things arts and crafts!

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June ~ We took our first vacation as a family of 5 to the family cabin in the mountains.

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July ~ We began our third year of homeschooling! We decided to begin schooling year round this year. This gives us more flexibility to take a day off here and there if needed. We also joined Classical Conversations and it has been an absolute blessing to our homeschool.

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August ~ Sweet Pea turned 4! Sweet Pea is still as sweet as can be, but she holds her own when necessary! She has come out of her shell somewhat. She loves her new role as big sister and enjoys her preschool time with Mommy each morning.

Little Sarge turned 1 in August. He has made tremendous progress in his first year of life. After a rough start, you wouldn’t know it now. He went from being an infant that just laid on a blanket at six months old to rolling, sitting, crawling, pulling up and walking in just five months time!

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September ~ (This actually happened in October, but I didn’t have many pictures from September so decided to put this one here.) I took the girls on a 24-hour road trip/field trip to visit a dear friend of mine who I actually met through this blog. The girls enjoyed playing on a farm with new friends and Meg and I enjoyed getting to talk face-to-face while all of our children played together!

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October ~ We took our annual Pumpkin Patch picture.

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November ~ We spent Thanksgiving with my parents.

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December ~ We enjoyed our Christmas Eve tradition of eat dinner together with the family, singing Christmas Carols, looking at Christmas lights and then heading home to get everyone tucked in for the night!

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Merry Christmas to all

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HAPPY NEW YEAR!