The post-trauma transformation, part 1 of 4


Have you ever walked into a room and realized that everyone but you is looking intently at something behind you? At first, you think they’re staring at you. And you start feeling really self-conscious. Then you realize that it isn’t about you at all and then you feel even more self-conscious—like a goofball. You turn around and go “Ohhhhhhh! I get it now.” All you had to do was turn around.

The most pivotal experience of my life took place toward the end of my first marriage, which I affectionately call The Nine Years of Misery. What was this most-pivotal experience? Let’s think of it as The Post-Trauma Transformation. It wasn’t a crossroads. It was a U-turn. I just needed to turn around and start looking in a different direction. Big time.

The traumas
I summarized the losses and traumas from my first marriage in this section from part 2 of the Grieving Divorce post.

Slow death
In my case, my first husband—I’ll call him Greg—kept engaging in worse and worse behavior. Ours was a case of a long, slow death. He spiraled downward. But he wouldn’t make the decision to move out or file for divorce. Mr. Irresponsible wanted to be able to blame that on me. There was the emotional abuse, the alcoholism, the affair, the pornography, the refusal to do anything our counselor asked him to do (other than showing up), and the new girlfriend—to name the main bullet points on Mr. Irresponsible’s Marriage Résumé.

Testifying in court
A lot of different encounters—from the mundane to the miraculous—preceded The Post-Trauma Transformation in my life.

Let’s step back into Boot Camp, my job during my first marriage. Back in those days, I worked as a caseworker for Child Protective Services. One of my responsibilities was to testify in court in child abuse, neglect and adoption cases. I didn’t really mind it that much. But it was intense sometimes, especially during Final Hearings, when the state was seeking to terminate parents’ rights and free children legally for adoption. I had to keep my cool, even when a parent’s lawyer was being sarcastic or rude to me, and I had to get relevant testimony into the court record.

We prepared some of those cases for years and had thick case records that documented all of the attempts we’d made to work with the parents to make reconciliation possible. We documented their lies, their no-shows when they were scheduled to visit with their children, and oh-so-much more. Sadly, those were the crack-heavy 1980s, so happy endings were few where the birth parents were concerned. Many of our little cutie pies were successfully adopted by wonderful families, some who’d served as their foster families. We lived for those happy endings, because the day-to-day grind was killer.

This may seem like I totally lost my train of thought, but stay with me. It’ll make sense in a minute.

The big car and the big window
Have you ever had an experience when you knew God saved your life? It’s happened to me a number of times. During college I worked at a clothing store. One day I ran from the clothing store into the bread store next door after a big car had been driven through the all-glass storefront. Right after I ran inside and asked the elderly driver if he was okay (and he was), the massive pane of glass crashed down behind me. What a sound. If I’d hesitated and arrived just a moment later, I’d have been toast. Whew. All the people in the store were at the very back, so even though display cabinets were shoved around and there was a big boat-of-a-car in the store, no one was hurt.

I was doing my own thing in those days and not really giving God much thought, but he saved my life. I knew it. And I thanked him.

The termination trial
Another time when God saved my life was much more dramatic. Here’s the backdrop. I drove to the courthouse to testify before a jury in a Final Hearing about a precious three-year-old boy. Let’s call him Timmy. I was Timmy’s caseworker and the star witness for the state. A lot of people were in the courtroom that day, including Timmy’s mom—Brandy—and her entourage (i.e., a bunch of people I’d never seen before).

At the end of the hearing, the judge read the questions that were posed to the jury out loud and he read the jury’s answers. “Do you, the jury, find that the parents knowingly engaged in conduct…?” Blah, blah, blah in legalese.

We understood what those questions and answers meant. We won the case. Timmy had just been freed for adoption. We also knew that Brandy and her peeps didn’t understand the questions or the answers, so we high-tailed it out the back of the courtroom before things got too interesting. After we made it into the hallway, we could hear the family screaming and wailing. Their attorney explained to them what the questions and answers meant. They lost. They just lost Timmy—forever.

The good-bye visit
About a week later, Brandy came up to the Child Protective Services office for her Good-bye Visit with Timmy. She would never see him again.

Guess what Brandy brought in her purse….

A gun.

The murder plot
I’d always walked Brandy out to her car after visits, so she was planning to kill me in the parking lot.

God intervened.

A phone call or some other emergency kept me from walking her out to her car.

Brandy’s cousin came with her for the first time that day. Coincidence? No. I don’t believe in those. Some people explain it like this: A coincidence is when God chooses to remain anonymous. After her cousin turned her in, Brandy was hospitalized briefly in the psychiatric ward at the local county hospital. I boogied out of town to my friend Lindsey’s apartment to chill out for the weekend and to put some distance between me and the gun.

I thanked God then too. What an intense time.

Saved times two
God gave me and many other people a very special privilege—the privilege to save Timmy’s life. He wouldn’t have lived if he’d been sent back home. It was one of those cases. Many people were involved in saving him: Timmy’s foster parents, the judge, the jury, the lawyers, the doctors, the previous caseworker/investigator and more. And after Timmy’s life was saved, God reached down and saved mine—from his gun-toting mom.

Isn’t that remarkable? My testimony in court and the legal termination of the birth parents’ rights to their gorgeous brown-eyed boy led to a chance for God to reach down and save my life.

Did I mention the time during college when I fell asleep while I was driving back to campus from an out-of-town bar late at night and started driving off the road? I miraculously woke up in time to swerve back to safety. For another God Saves Frankie Ann story, scroll down to the bottom of this post, to the section about the song. That’s a good one—the miracle and the song.

Why did God keep reaching down to save my life? Why? Why me?

God saved my life because I hadn’t achieved my destiny yet—
God’s plans for my life.

What were those plans? Well, to choose the right Forever Family for all those children; to be Brandon’s wife, Logan’s mom, and a friend to my close friends; and to write this blog—just to name a handful. But there’s a lot more to my story.

My story
I grew up in church and was there several times per week from birth through the end of high school, off and on during college and for a couple years after college, and then not at all for about 10 years. I memorized lots of Bible verses during those childhood years, which helped me big-time during The Post-Trauma Transformation—and ever since. I became a Christian when I was 33 years old.

Believing without receiving
For as long as I can remember, I believed that God created the world and all of us; and I believed that Jesus was his son, who sacrificed his life to pay the price for our sins (the bad things we all do) so we could return to a close, right relationship with God. I understood the Bible’s message in my head—and I thought my belief made me a Christian at the time—but I didn’t have a personal relationship with God. I just went through the motions and did my own thing. I was the poster child for Believing Without Receiving.

Believing Without Receiving isn’t helpful. It’s like having a plate full of food that you don’t actually eat. For more on that subject, see this post.

All form, no substance
My life seemed okay. I seemed to be doing what everybody else was doing. Sort of. I had friends who were just like me. I had fun—sometimes. But things didn’t turn out so great with me running the show.

Remember who I was back in college—from the section called Appearances:

I made straight A’s in college, partied on Friday and Saturday night, and went to church on Sunday. My parents’ way of living—“all form, no substance”—had poisoned me too. Appearances were deceiving….

More to the point, my first marriage was a traumatic, catastrophic mess that kept getting worse. We took the vows, we wore the rings, we lived in the house, but we never experienced a true marriage.

A true marriage is a loving, truthful,
healing partnership and covenant.

On my knees
Finally, toward the end of The Nine Years of Misery, I got down on my knees and said “God, help me!” I asked God for something very specific—a miracle, actually—on behalf of Greg. He was in bad shape emotionally-speaking, battling depression. I knew he needed to be on antidepressants, at least temporarily, but he was adamantly against it. “No way. Not ever.” And that was a done deal… or so I thought.

The most-pivotal experience
I prayed to God for the first time in years. Before I knew it, Greg went on antidepressants. Wow. I was amazed. I didn’t know how God did it, but he did. I knew that God heard me and supernaturally answered my prayer, and we’ve been tight ever since.

I began living my life walking closely with God—talking to him, trusting him. Jesus Christ became my Savior and Lord. I started attending Bible Study Fellowship and dug deeply into the Bible. I learned so much….

Greg gave me traumas and destruction.

God gave me salvation and a new life.

Did everything work out in our marriage? Nope. People are free to make their own choices. We’re free to choose God or reject him. I was obvious evidence of that. He’d saved my life a number of times, but I waited until I wanted something desperately from him before I said “Hey, I’m ready to give you a try.”

God is patient. When we’re ready, he’s there. Without freedom, you can’t have love. God doesn’t force himself on us. He’s always watching over us—and saving our bacon here and there…. Waiting and longing for us to say yes.

Greg was free to do what he wanted to do too. And he did. Mr. Free Bird did whatever he wanted to do. Did he ever. I’m shaking my head and rolling my eyes—a two-for-one. That’s okay. Our marriage didn’t turn out the way I wanted it to, but my story wasn’t over. God took me on a biplane ride and told me it was time to let go.

From part 7 of Grieving Divorce:

The biplane ride
One weekend in May, Greg and I went to an aircraft museum. I decided to take a biplane ride, something I’d never done before…. The pilot flew the plane skillfully and I was the only passenger. Or was I?

We soared and turned, and I felt free. I don’t remember anything that I heard with my ears while I flew, but I remember how I felt—the sensations of flying free. The wind blew my hair, I saw the world from a new place, I breathed that fresh air deep into my lungs, and inside my mind, the still, small voice kept saying “Let go.” “Let go.” “Let go.” “Let go.”

High gear
God had plans for my life, and we were just shifting into high gear. He had someone better in mind for me. Six months after my divorce was final, I met Brandon. And he’s loved me ever since.

Coming next: Well, it’s soccer season, homecoming week and Parenting Rocks time, so the next post is a little rough at this point. Come back next time to read about the club and my fire insurance.

Healing through truth and music
Peaceful Readers, I’ve found great healing in my life through the beauty and truth of God’s word and through music. I hope the truths and songs that I share at the end of each post will bless you too.

Truth from The Word: Ephesians 2:1-10

Song for Healing: Speaking of a two-for-one, how about two songs about salvation from Mercy Me. The first one contains some powerful imagery from the crucifixion of Jesus Christ. The second one will make you want to dance. Go ahead and dance, even if you’re sitting down. Do a little happy shaking about Jesus. It feels good.

“All of Creation” by Mercy Me

“Shake” by Mercy Me