Episode 1- A Cage Called Paradise
The garage door shut jolting Sarah awake, signaling to her it was okay to leave the house. She couldn’t have the car, John used it to get to and from work. She could walk, just far enough to get away. That was okay for Sarah. Her feet needed to go, more than just for a walk, but if a walk was all they could have- then a walk would have to do.
Waking up on the island came with a shock every morning. She knew where she was and was pretty sure she would be here awhile. Sleep seemed to bring an escape to her mind during the time she lived on the island. Though the surprise of waking hadn't seemed to become any more familiar than it had upon her arrival. Every morning seemed to start off with an intense shock that pooled in her arms and lingered in her fingertips, and her pounding heart caused her to lose her breath.
Leaving felt wrong, and she didn't want to make john mad, but she would be back before he got home. Maybe he wouldn't know she left the house while he was at work. The need to get out was greater than she could manage to fight any longer. She closed and locked the door behind her and headed toward Mokapu Boulevard.
Her eyes gave way to the tears she was holding back and her body shook more and more the further down the road she got.
All the tears she kept hidden inside of the house came spilling out all at once. The baby rested, not quite ready to wake up. And Sarah wiped her eyes, hiding any glimpse of pain on her face, the way she had to. After crossing the road she looked over her shoulder making sure she wasn’t being followed- but felt like she was all the same.
In the house, or whenever she was around John, a numbness came over her. It felt more and more like a fog that cut her off from herself just as much as it cut her off from people she loved and the world around her. The fog sometimes followed her, but usually, when she broke away, the fog didn't follow leaving her to feel all that had been pushed back over the days and weeks.
She had spent 47 days in the fog without leaving, but now that she had left she had 47 days of pain and tears to feel all at once.
The island breeze is warm, moist, and full of rustling leaves and the hum of the ocean. The house on the corner had shutters for windows called jalousie, and a lanai that adds to the exotic feel. Most of the houses off-based looked this way. The grass is short and sponge-like, lacking the long individual blades that grass normally has.
Tropical birds call out in beautiful songs, unlike the plain songs of the birds in Colorado. Their song offered no comfort though, only a reminder of how far she had traveled from home. A home is a place someone fits. A home is a place that allows for coming and going as needed, and others that miss you when you're away.
The big move to Oahu was something of great anticipation. But that was before she knew what life on an island would hold.
The air had a saltiness to the moisture it held. The island is small allowing it to be traveled in a few hours. Beaches end roadways and hold back a tantalizing ocean that became a darker blue in the distance.
Some of the birds are colorful with brightly colored wings and beaks, others are ordinary- white, black, and brown. Wild chickens roam, scavenging in parking lots and parks hoping to find the leftovers from a stranger- the way geese would in Colorado. They looked as though they had escaped their coop and were happy for their freedom to walk about.
The Koolau and Waianae mountains seemingly jut straight out from the island, providing low lands in the center. Tiny waterfalls appear when there is heavy rain, rain that quiets the birds and hides the sun- even if only for a short time.
Oahu was united with the other Hawaiian islands in 1795 by King Kamehameha. The state consists of 8 main islands. Size, climate, and visitors all differ in comparison. Hawaii and its islands soon became popular and is a dream vacation spot for people from all over the world.
When Sarah had talked about the island she would soon be moving to the response was always about the beauty of the island and how lucky she was. But now that she had moved- she didn't feel all that lucky.
Oahu, rich in agriculture, grows pineapples, coffee, fruit and vegetables, and macadamia nuts- to name a few. Some honey is harvested and sold along with many other locally grown foods at farmers' markets, leaving no shortage of fresh food.
If Hawaii had anything in common with Colorado, it was agriculture- and surprisingly cattle.
Remembering the first time Sarah saw the cattle on North Shore was during their first trip around the island upon arriving. John, Sarah, and the red-headed baby drove around sightseeing. The baby slept in his car seat on the trip. And not having been on the island very long yet, Sarah was excited to see this new place that felt like a whole different planet.
Agriculture was something that Sarah hadn't enjoyed or appreciated as a child. She had once preferred the city over the country.
They somehow felt out of place with the rest of the island, on flat acreage on the opposite side of the road as the beach. It soon became a view she needed to ease the pain- if only temporarily. Months passed and as John was away for training, and some days she knew he’d be gone most of the day she’d sneak away to the north shore.
North Shore is known for its wild waves and surfing competitions. While everyone was taking in the view of the beach and ocean, Sarah was captivated by the cows.
John suspicious of Sarah's trips started accusing her of cheating and logged the miles on the car to keep tabs. Sarah eventually would stop going. She had tried to reason with him without letting him know how homesick she was, how much she needed to leave the base, and the comfort the cattle brought her. She acted like she didn’t care that he was logging the miles on the car, after all, she wasn’t doing anything wrong.
But each time she was met with more anger and more accusations. So she stopped, the peace the cattle on the north shore brought wasn’t worth what she would face at home if she went. Her feet, however, could not have their miles logged- for they would never tell of the place they carried her when John was gone.
Sarah walking off base now saw something from the 1950s and felt her heart stir within her. It became something she would look for. Usually, it was a song playing in a local shop or wall art.
Spotting an old Woody with Elvis Presly blaring from the speakers, she watched. The ’50s seemed to be alive around every corner, that part of Oahu was alright. She leaned against a tree and enjoyed watching the old man from another time comb grease through his hair and place his comb in the front pocket of his buttoned-down Hawaiian shirt.
He stood outside his car as if he were waiting for someone. But when no one came, Sarah deciding he was just enjoying life, continued walking.
She had seen him before and was playing Elvis then, too. Her dad would have gotten a kick out of it. She grew up listening to 1950s, Elvis Presley, Buddy Holly, and The Drifters. Songs of breakups and dancing with someone other than your first love seemed like simpler problems than the life she lived now.
Sarah wondered if there were songs about heartbreak like she felt now. More tears interrupted her vision as she felt the homesickness she usually tried to ignore. But there was no stopping the memories now.
Her dad would put on the golden oldies and she and her siblings would dance around the living room. And as they grew he still played with them, in the kitchen while making breakfast and in the garage as he worked on classic cars. She missed them all, especially him, but remembering made it difficult to pretend everything was fine.
On base, people walk with a mission to get somewhere. Off base, there is a less hurried feel to peoples’ steps. Some people are barefooted and others wear flip-flops. Locals and tourists carry surfboards to beaches, each step taken with anticipation for the waves. The girls wear swim bottoms with longsleeved swim tops and the guys are all in swim trunks, booth colorful with big flowery patterns.
Everyone leaving has salty skin and hair exhausted by the waves they conquered- or the waves that conquered them. Laughter and conversation filled every sidewalk and crosswalk as they moved on to the next thing the island had to offer.
Visitors and locals were easy to spot. Locals had deep tans and an easiness about them that felt like home. Visitors were hurried and less patient with those around them, as if they were trying to take in as much of the island as they could before they left- not caring who they trampled.
Sarah smiled back at passersby but smiling seemed to be nothing more than the pulling of muscles in her lips, not attached to the heart-as a real smile would need to be. She appreciated the kindness of strangers but there was a missing connection within her.
There was something Sarah envied in both the locals and tourists. The locals for how they lived their life at home, and the soon departure of the visitors. Both groups were joyful and expectant as they went about their day.
She had desired to belong to either group either, envying both. Being at home like the locals, or being able to leave soon like the visitors, is what she longs for. The feeling of being misplaced grew more obvious she was neither at home nor leaving, and she wondered if others knew just how out of place she was.
The sun was warm on Sarah’s untanned skin as she pushed the red-headed baby in a stroller. Her hair was dark, though lightening at the ends. She wasn't an island girl and her pail skin made known that she had not spent her days in the sun on the beach- though it was no secret.
The way her feet stepped one in front of the other, left, right, left, right, seemed to bring comfort by the rhythm. Her feet became heavier against the island the further away she got from the base.
Walking usually meant getting stuck in the rain, especially in the wintertime. She’d push the stroller under an awning at a local store. Somewhat shielded from the rain she cooed to the redhead baby who held his hands out for her.
The mist still reached them as she picked up the redhead and wrapped him in a light blanket. Wanting to be held by his mother, not caring one bit about the weather, he excitedly began to kick his leg.
The rain passed and people began to reclaim their spot in the grassy area outside. She noticed people gathering, enjoying each other's conversation some ate snowcones and young ones played.
Numbness taking over, she stood, though not really watching the people but remembering. The week they’d arrived and stayed in the lodge behind the grassy area. John kicked Sarah and the baby out of the room after being woken up in the middle of the night and denying her the ability to take her phone.
It was just a phone, what was the big deal? She needed it. The phone's backing, battery, and case flung apart as the phone collided with the wall in an angry hurl. It had laid on the floor in the room at the lodge. She was not allowed to pick up the pieces and reassemble them. After being pushed by the shoulder and forced to leave the door closed behind her.
Nowhere to go, no one to help. Outside she faced only a locked door, and a sleepy baby. Who would she call anyway? They knew no one there. No one could help her. Needing comfort, she went to the front desk of the lodge to call her mother. Tears began to stream down her face again when she heard a familiar “hello” on the other line.
The front desk manager called the military police on base to check in and see if everything was ok. After telling them what happened, they made john leave putting him in a barracks arrest for a few days. When he was allowed to come back he acted as if nothing happened. Smiling and joking and living life as he normally did.
Upon returning, he had reasoned that it was simply protocoled, if there is a disturbance then the service member always has to leave- because they didn’t have control over the wives. Believing every bit that the wives were the ones in desperate need of breaking- as if they were wild horses- green and untrained.
Several months had passed since that first night. And the island left its stain on her heart and seemed to drain her hope. And though Sarah still did not know many people. She did start to recognize some faces and began to remember names.
It was time to leave and head to that house that was supposed to be home. Sarah bent at the waist and leaned the redhead over to place him in the stroller.
The redhead pressed his head against her chest in an attempt to not be put down again but soon allowed himself to be buckled. He was such a happy baby easy and compliant. But he had the same sadness in his eyes that Sarah had, except he wore his in a furrowed brow.
Daytime outings were something that gave Sarah a place to go, though walking around an island was pointless for escape, it temporarily satisfied the feet that longed to carry her and the redheaded baby to safety.
The walk back to base housing was more difficult than leaving. The house stood tall at the foot of a large hill- the highest point on the base. White siding gave an ordinary look, nothing tropical about it- except for the single palm tree that was in the front yard. The same size of palm trees were in every yard, in a uniform manner that was fitting for the military.
Few houses on base had beautiful Hibiscus shrubs in the front yards. The older housing on base was older and run down, some of the wives complained of the mold and cockroaches, that didn't seem to be present in the house Sarah lived in. She did find a scorpion and large centipede that seemed to be 6 inches or so- she’d have taken the cockroaches.
Walking up the hill where their house sat on top Sarah grew frustrated at the strength it took. Why was she fighting so hard to get to somewhere she didn't want to be?
As she opened the door and climbed the steps to the house the fog came over her again as if it had waited for her to return. The fog brought a numbness, which was welcomed, all she had felt that day was more than she could bare any longer.
Abiding in Dispair to Abiding in Love
Episode 1- Devotional
I remember searching books and anything I could get my hands on in hopes of knowing what it was like to leave a controlling and abusive marriage. I didn't find much. There was a lot of information about what abuse in marriage looks like, and inside the minds of controlling men, but nothing about leaving. Women take an average of 7 times to leave these types of relationships and it is my opinion that it’s not the fear of the unknown, but the fear of what they do that keeps them from leaving.
This podcast is my way of turning my experience into your support, confidence, and hope.
Life has a way of wearing us down, and I know you’ve been there, or else you wouldn't be here. You may be there now. Occasionally there are times of peace that allow us to take a break from the intensity of the hardships we face. Sometimes those hardships do not go away, and other times new hardships come to take the place of old ones. It can feel like being tossed by the waves, and the break-in impacting wave begins to lessen as each new wave hits.
Life often leaves you with questions that need answers and questioning that can serve as a protection to you in life. But what happens when that questioning becomes a tool of isolation?
This questioning has a real name: DOUBT
And so far, it is likely that doubt has taken away your power and your identity.
I don’t mean any of this to scare you. Though it does feel heavy, you may feel relief having some words to put to the feeling.
Lost is what doubt feels like. It’s like not having a home, not belonging anywhere. You may feel out of place in your marriage, the house you live in, with your family, or friends. And that is what this type of doubt does, it’s displacing. The places you felt like you used to belong to, begin to feel as if the shape has changed where you used to fit. Making that spot feel tight and different than it used to.
But adding more confusion this doubt in self and the doubt in other relationships and the doubt in the outside world don't come from within you. It's coming at you and it stems from one person. And that person is the one who swore to love and protect you. But love doesn't feel like love, does it?
And so doubt quickly turns to despair. And what was once exciting and life-giving turns into a suffocating and long-lasting loss of hope. This is the place you live, the place you sleep, raise babies, do laundry and eat meals.
But as more waves hit, the fire goes out. And it’s still expected that you do all of these things, a smile may even be demanded. Darkness becomes familiar, but hope is not lost forever.
These relationships look great on the outside, but on the inside, they’re life-taking, not life-giving. There is confusion because what is known to be true is often shifted- making unrecognizably deception. This reality- or lack of reality, makes you worry and wonder what is going on. You try your best to stop the pain and fights, but they always happen again. It begins to feel less safe to express your feelings or stand up for yourself. And so, you don't.
So, how does a flame reignite after it’s been put out? The answer is not a how it's a who.
Where is God in all this?
Does God care and how can he help you? The truth is that God does care about you! But I don't exactly know how He will help. I do know that He saves people over and over again, and the proof is in the Bible. And the proof is in my life. That is why I share some of my journey with you, so you can see that God does come through- sometimes unexpectedly. He came through for me. He came through for the Israelites when He rescued them from slavery in Egypt. He returned the life of the Shunammite woman's son in 2 kings. He gave blind men sight. Healed a woman with the issue of bleeding. And He did so much more and continues to do so much more. I will add these to the show notes so you can study more later.
So, where is He in your battle? Will He deliver you? All I can say is He has a plan. He is all-knowing- past, present, and future. He knows what you need.
I love the reassurance found in Jeremiah 29:11 “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”
One thing to remember is that God is present, and He is there for those who cry out to Him. The problem is not that God is not present but that is often forgotten, or three is a disbelief- or doubt- that he will come through.
I have often seen and experienced that this happens when a life is built and lived apart from Him. Coercive controlling relationships don't only cut you off from yourself, and those you love and care for, but also from reality and from God.
The neat thing is that when God is put back in the center of your life, the rest seems to follow. No, it's not easy or quick in completion, but there is a shift right away. Psalm 72:12 says “For He will deliver thee needy who cry out, the afflicted who have no one to help.” He does not leave you when you cry out to Him. He does not leave you to fend for yourself.
Romans 8:28 says “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” Did you catch that? He works them out.
Now that doesn't mean that you don’t have to do anything. Because you do, but He makes them work and He directs your path.
So, what do you do when the fire is put out by the crashing waves and you feel as if you could not handle one more blow from this thing called life?
You cry out for help from the God who knows and loves you.
“Your ears shall hear a word behind you saying ‘This is the way, walk in it. Whenever you turn to the right hand or whenever you turn to the left.” Isaiah 30:21.
We do not see the path that is ahead. But we can put our trust and faith in the One who does know the way.
Picture this- An Analogy
A young girl plays outside- riding her bike on a sunny and warm day. She rides around smiling at her father as she rides past him, enjoying the feeling of the wind blowing her hair as she pedals faster. She hears birds tweeting and feels the warmth from the sun. She is comforted by her father's presence. He is strong and gentle.
As she gets a way down the road the chain to her bike falls off causing her to slow down- pedaling is useless. At first, she is able to put the chain back on, but every few feet or so the chain on her bike falls off again. So she climbs off of the bike and tries to put the chain back on.
Struggling for a few moments with the chain, she finally gets the chain back in place and rides off another time- only to have the chain fall off again.
She starts off feeling secure in the joy she is experiencing as she laughs and experiences her life in the sunshine and her father's watchful eye. But as soon as difficulty comes it consumes the fun and peace. Each time her bike chain falls off the tries to fix it on her own. Eventually, she forgets her father is still there waiting to help.
Her father walks toward her seeing she is struggling with the bike and asks if she needs help.
“I know how to fix it, dad.” And so he watches her struggle with the bike and sees how desperately she desires to ride.
She’s able to get the chain back on one last time, but as she rides away she falls scraping her knee and elbow on the sidewalk. She cries out for her father, who is already by her side and bending to pick her up.
Carrying the little girl in one arm and the bike in the other, they head back home to clean up the girl's knee and fix the bike chain.
Later, with a bandaged knee the little girl's father jumps her up to sit her down on the shop bench in the garage. He grabs a couple of tools and begins to fix her bike chain. The little girl just watches as her father quickly fixes the bike.
Jumping off of the bench the little girl asks “why was that so easy for you to fix? But so hard for me?”
The father responded, “Daddy’s were made for fixing and little girls were made for riding.” The little girl hugged her dad and said “Daddies are made for fixing scraped knees too.”
She climbed back on her bike and she rode away.
Dear Heavenly Father,
Your word says “Your ears shall hear a word behind you saying ‘This is the way, walk in it. Whenever you turn to the right hand or whenever you turn to the left.” Isaiah 30:21.
We do not see the path that is ahead. But we can put our trust and faith in the One who does know the way.
I pray that you will heal the scrapes on the heart of the woman listening right now. I pray you will comfort her and as she cries out to you, please scoop her up and carry her on her path so her weary feet can rest. Heal the pain and fix what is broken.
You made her, and you know her. She was never left to face the pain and fear life has brought her on her own. Help her to feel your presence and love above all the difficulty that comes her way.
In Jesus’ name, I pray, Amen