September 17, 2009

A Sound Like Marching Feet

"When you hear a sound like marching feet in the tops of the balsam trees, attack! That will be the signal that the LORD is moving ahead of you to strike down the Philistines." (2 Samuel 5.24) last Thursday September 10, 2009, we had a court date for a trial to get final orders in the custody petition filed by my husband, the family offense petition (order of protection) filed by me, and the fake one filed by him. My husband filed for custody of our three children (at the time) on January 9, 2009, the morning after the children and I had been placed in a confidential domestic violence shelter. In his petition he claimed that I just woke up and decided go live in a shelter with the children and that I was keeping them from him. Mind you, it hadn't even been 24 hours yet, but I was keeping them from him.

In his petition he made no mention of the fact that we were in a secret shelter being hidden from him and the abuse he had been inflicting on me and the terror he was inflicting on his children. For the first few weeks we were in the shelter, he and I still communicated, but nothing had changed with him. He wasn't the least bit remorseful or slightly upset that he might lose his family. He would call and we would end up arguing. I was naturally angry with all that had happened, that he wouldn't apologize for anything and had the audacity to try and blame me for everything.

In one of his text messages, he said that I was, "unilaterally making decisions" that was taking our family on a certain course of no return. I tried in vain to explain to him that the only choice I was making was not to be abused any more and to save our children from being afraid and more traumatized than they already were. I told him that he had made the choice that determined the fate and destiny of our family, by choosing to be violent & abusive and choosing not to get help to put an end to it. I told him by making the choice to remain abusive, he left me with 2 choices: live with the abuse or live without him.

After more than 10 years of abuse, I chose to live without him. I had already tried the choice to live with the abuse and it wasn't working for me. It was destroying our children and me. So really, I was left with only one choice and it was to do what I had never done before, something that I'm sure he never thought I'd do and that was leave him. 

Many times over the years I went to stay at my dad's, grandma's, or sister's house to escape after one of his attacks. But I would be back the next morning or in a day or two after he called apologizing, confessing his love and promising it would never happen again. This time I had actually left, with no intention to return to that life.

In any event, while we were safely tucked away at the shelter, he'd call sometimes to speak to the kids. Sometimes he'd call in an attempt to convince me that I was doing something wrong or tried to make me see how I played a role in his abuse towards me or that in fact, I was the one that had been verbally and physically abusive to him when I defended myself! When he called and things got out of hand, I'd hang up on him, but he'd call right back. I'd hang up again and he'd call right back again. He'd easily call more than a dozen times in a row.

I actually found out that he'd filed for custody from my father, who he called in his attempt to badmouth me. This was after I had been operating in good faith and had taken the kids to see him on at least 3 occasions. He had never mentioned a word to me about this custody suit.  Maybe his plan was for me to not show up and win by default. I went to the courthouse and got a copy of the petition so I'd know when I was supposed to appear.

Well it just so happened that on the day I went to the court for the petition, he called 23 times harassing me. It was then that I decided to get an order of protection. I was directed to the Safe Horizons office located in the courthouse and told them my situation. They helped me file the petition and I was in the courtroom shortly after that. The judge granted me a temporary order of protection and advised me that I could file criminal charges against him as well, but I didn't go that route. I didn't want him in jail, even if perhaps that's exactly where he belonged. I just wanted him to leave me alone. That was February 5, 2009.

After numerous court appearances, including one in which he denied his kids the brand new beds we bought them, causing everyone in the court to pause in shock, the trial was on for Thursday Sept. 10th. Personally, I don't trust the legal system and don't feel comfortable trusting my life and future to people I don't know. They have their own issues, agendas and prejudices, that they bring to the table.

Over the summer while we were waiting to go back to court for trial, I thought I'd reach out to Jeff to see if he would be willing to settle things between on our own. I typed up a letter laying out my proposals and gave it to my lawyer to give to his. Please note the date on the letter is July 3, 2009. The date on the letter is significant because it is two months before we were to appear in court. A copy of the letter is at this link: Can We Settle This Please?

God is my single source of strength and through this trial I am learning more and more exactly what He means when he said, "My grace is sufficient for you: for My strength is made perfect in (your) weakness," (2 Corinthians 12.9).  I have been crying, praying and standing my way through this nightmare and have been held up supernaturally. There were so many, many days I wanted to give up, probably most days. My strength was gone and I just knew I couldn't go on one more day, but amazing things have happened for us that I absolutely could not have made happen on my own. That's how I know it was God, because I had absolutely nothing to do with it.

As I had on numerous other occasions, I had given this court battle over to the Lord. I go into detail in the post titled, "The Devil is a Liar." I had prayed and prayed on it, others were praying on it, I stood in faith and left it in God's hands. My own lawyer had even brought me to the point of tears as she was preparing me for the trial. She wasn't happy with many of my answers because they weren't legally "perfect" enough. When I couldn't remember exactly what was said or done, then it wasn't good enough. She didn't like the fact that my witnesses (my oldest son and mother) couldn't remember dates and times of every episode or were confused about some of the details.Who could remember every detail about every altercation that had occurred over the course of 10 years. They just kind of all blend together.

As I drove from PA to NY on the day of the trial,  I told my mom that I wasn't going to stress about it. Whatever is going to happen is already what God has decided to do about it and nothing is going to change that. That is one of the things that brings the peace that only God can give - knowing and trusting that if you have been faithful and your trust is in Him, He's got it all under control and nobody can alter the outcome. 

Going to court always gave me a nervous feeling. Seeing my husband was scary in and of itself, but seeing him act all happy & smug, fresh from the salon in a suit and shades, like R. Kelly & O.J. rolled into one, along with his expensive lawyer was somewhat intimidating. The waiting to be called, the grumpy judge, and just being in court period were causes for anxiety for me. That particular day was no different, I felt anxious, but I wasn't afraid. I just held on to my faith, and prayed over the whole courtroom - the lawyers, the clerks, the judge and my husband. I was confident that I was going to see God do His thing.

Everyone was checked in except for my husband's attorney, and when I saw him turn the corner, I knew it was showtime. Within maybe 5 minutes, my lawyer came over to me and said my husband's side wanted to know if I was willing to settle on the family offense petition and he would agree to 6 months on my order of protection. I said, "Sure, that's what I offered to him first." She went back and talked to them some more. When she came back, she said that he was willing to settle on the custody and give me sole legal custody. I said, "Ok. Good." Over the course of the next 2 hours, she came and went with tidbits of information and status updates on what he was agreeing to.

When it was all said and done and my husband finally signed his name to this legally binding agreement, I had gotten every single thing that I had wanted. Everything that I asked him to settle with me in my letter back in July, he settled with me on that day. Not one single thing had been modified. This all happened without a trial, without testifying, without witnesses.

It all happened without me having to say a word. Try and tell me that wasn't God!

It happened in spite of my husband being "irate" as my lawyer put it, about feeling like he was being backed into a corner. It happened in spite of his hired gun, who I believe advised him to agree to the terms. At one point, my lawyer said while they were in a room talking, Jeff's lawyer said, "I give up, I'm about to ask to be removed from this case!" I guess his client was getting on his nerves that bad.

It happened in spite of the judge and his temperament. When the case was first assigned to this judge, my lawyer told me that things might be difficult because this judge had a reputation as being mean and making some pretty harsh decisions that often went against the person who was in the right. He even yelled at me once during one of our appearances.

It happened in spite of my lawyer getting mad at me and telling me not to tell her how to do her job, that she was the legal professional. Even sarcastically telling me that if she needed to know something of a legal nature, she would call and ask me.

It happened in spite of the law guardian assigned to the kids threatening to take me to court when I put an end to the phone calls that were upsetting the kids and when I refused to continue to drive the kids up to New York for supervised visits due to the stress and strain from the pregnancy and the financial strain of the drive. 

In the end it didn't matter who the players were, what their positions were, what their titles or education was or what they were planning to say or do.

In the end it was God's call and everyone was going to do what God wanted them to do and He was working it all out for my good. "If God is for us, who can be against us?" (Romans 8.31)

My husband wanted to take my kids away from me in an attempt to hurt me. He didn't care about them. He didn't provide for them until ordered by a court. He refused to give them their beds to sleep in. He didn't care about his sick newborn. He didn't give any of them a gift for their birthday, in spite of promising to do so when he saw them.

All his evil plans and wicked schemes failed because God said, "Not so!"

I was granted sole legal and physical custody of my children. After having his visits with the children supervised by ACS, then a social worker - that he had to pay for, the next time he sees them, the visits will be supervised by me. He won't get unsupervised visits until he completes his domestic violence program - which is 6 months long. He withdrew his fake petition for an order of protection against me, he had to, it was all lies. My Father wasn't going to let that stand against me.

What is extra sad about all of this is, when the children and I were in the shelter in January, I asked my husband to get into a program and get help so that maybe in 6 months to a year we could reconcile. I asked him to get off drugs, not do the club thing - strip or otherwise, and not live with another woman or sleep around while we are separated. I told him that I was willing for him to see the kids every weekend while we were in shelter and then as often as he or the kids wanted when we returned home after he moved out, which was the original plan.That sounds reasonable, even generous by most people's standards.

His response to my requests was that I was trying to "exert power and control" over him! I told him he missed it completely. I didn't see things in terms of power and control as he did, those were his abusive lenses he was seeing through.  

It was about love. I only wanted him to do these things to finally prove that he loved me. I needed him to do something to show it and not just say it. I told him that it would've been his way to save his family. He refused.

Well, he ended up having to do it all anyway. How stupid. It cost him money, time and he will never get his family back. When we do things our way instead of God's, we lose. Now he is doing it because he is ordered to by a court. He wouldn't do it when it was requested by his wife for the sake of his children.  

He wouldn't do it for love.

The man who always considers himself the smartest guy in the room and a master strategist, miscalculated his steps. That's easy to do when your steps aren't ordered by God (Psalms 37.23). As my mother, sister and I gathered our things outside of the courtroom to leave, the waiting area was practically empty. I could see my husband sitting with his back to us staring out of the large windows. I felt genuinely sorry for him. I didn't have a reason to, but I felt compassion for him and wished that he had made different choices so that none of us had to experience the pain we are going through and he wouldn't have to experience the pain that is most certainly waiting for him. It is the harvest that is coming from all the seeds of pain he has sown. "Do not be deceived, God is not mocked; for whatever a man sows, that he will also reap." (Galatians 6:7)

He may enjoy his freedom, money and lifestyle for a little while longer, but you can't escape harvest time forever. He may feel good for now, but one day it's going to hurt real bad. I prayed for him and asked God to use this time in his life, this time of loss, to help him come face to face with himself and turn his life around. He can't be a good father without being a good man, and he can't be a good man without having a good heart. I asked God to bless him with what God knows that he needs, even if all that is right now is, truth, understanding, and light.

The challenges and difficulties the kids and I face in rebuilding our lives are far from over. But the biggest battle, the one for my children has been fought and won. That is a huge load off and brings me a tremendous amount of peace. I won't have to stress about that anymore. I held my tongue, I held my peace, I held onto His word, and He held onto me.

And Moses said to the people, "Do not be afraid. Stand still, and see the salvation of the Lord, which He will accomplish for you today. For the Egyptians whom you see today, you shall see again no more forever. The Lord will fight for you, and you shall hold your peace." (Exodus 14.13 & 14)

God gave me the victory and I will continue to give Him all the honor & glory!