Life went on after counseling and I had a new-found freedom that I hadn’t experienced before. A freedom to let go of fear, a freedom to be vulnerable with myself and others, and a freedom to let go of the wounds of my past. I moved away from my hometown at 21 years old to California to live with my parents who had moved there 3 years prior for a career opportunity for my dad. I had every intention of moving there, moving in with my parents and finishing college. Instead I got a job, met my husband Ernesto, and got married.
Ernesto and I dated for about a year and a half. We were married on January 11th, 2004 in Rancho Mirage, California. At the time, I was serving on the worship team at a church we attended in Indian Wells, California. My parents and grandparents were also regular attenders. About a month after Ernesto and I got married, I was singing one weekend. I walked onto the platform and looked out to wave at my family who always sat in the same spot. But this day it was different. My mom sat next to my grandparents, but my dad was absent.
I’ll never forget the look on my mom’s face. It was FULL of grief and pain.Her face was puffy from crying. Instantly my heart was struck with panic. I was confused. I couldn’t concentrate on anything other than wanting to get off the platform to get to my mom. What was going on? Was my dad dead? No, can’t be that, because if he was, I would have known it before that moment. Someone would have called me. What is it then? I knew. Instinctively I knew. My dad, after almost 33 years of marriage, left my mom. He told her that he never loved her, and that he only married her because he felt sorry for her and didn’t want to hurt her so he went through with the wedding anyway.
I suppose It goes without saying that this was devastating to all of us, but obviously nobody was more devastated than my mom. My mom had never known any other relationship other than my dad. He was her first and only love. They had been together since they were teenagers, and married young at 20 years old. Now, people use the word “devastated” a lot... to the point where I think it’s lost it’s ability to describe accurately the severity of one’s emotional state. The definition of devastate is to “destroy or ruin” and/or to “cause (someone) SEVERE and overwhelming shock or grief”. This perfectly worded description paints a picture of my mom’s new disposition. Now in her early 50‘s, she found herself abandoned, betrayed, fearful and completely lost. My mom worshipped the ground my dad walked on. As kids, we saw it, and we idealized it. It gave us a sense of safety, knowing that our parents loved each other.
My brother and I both thought that my parents had an amazing love story. I always said I wanted to have a marriage like my parents. Oddly, as harsh as my dad could be at times with my brother and me growing up, he was not that way with my mom. He seemed to really adore her. He was affectionate, loving, generous and kind to her. He showered her with gifts and romanced her throughout their entire marriage. It was rare for them to argue. So to discover that my dad was not only having an affair, but essentially led a double life throughout the entirety of their marriage was a tough pill to swallow. His physical departure was agonizing, but what was even worse, is the way he treated my mom when he left. He was mean and cruel. He treated her as if she wasn’t worth the air he breathed.
As an adult child living through this with my parents, I kept thinking how I could never imagine being a child and trying to process all of this. As much as I hated what my dad was doing, I still loved him so much, and even felt sad for him a few times, knowing how lost he was. And my mom, oh how my heart just broke for her. Seeing the pain she was in, the torment she endured trying desperately to win him back, only to be repeatedly rejected each time, was excruciating to watch. If there was anything to be thankful for, it was that this happened when my brother and I could cope as adults. A child having to experience the pain and confusion of their parents divorcing is beyond anything they are capable of processing. And yet, divorce is as common as dining out in our society, and children are rarely considered and almost always caught in the crossfire. My heart breaks for these kids.
Being a social drinker, it was an easy source of comfort for my mom to turn to alcohol to numb her pain. I spent many nights watching my mom drink herself into oblivion. It broke my heart to watch her. After about 4 years of a downward spiral, my mom agreed to get help. She had already been in counseling the entire time, but she needed something more. She committed to a very intense outpatient program at the Betty Ford Center in Rancho Mirage, California.
There she was able to fight her addiction and gain a sober perspective of her life, and decided that instead of trying to exist and survive, she wanted to really live, in spite of the loss of her marriage. My mom learned a lot about herself, her co-dependency and the detrimental compromises she made that deeply hurt her and her children. Her journey led her to facing these painful truths, but also allowed her to seek forgiveness, not just from my brother and me, but most importantly, from herself. She also came to a crucial point of acceptance of the divorce and a place of forgiveness with my dad.
Though there are times when my mom is faced with lingering anger and sadness over her divorce, she has come a million miles. God brought her a wonderful man that she is now happily married to and loves her fiercely and faithfully. She has gone through an intensely painful process only to discover who she really is and what she is capable of. She’s discovered that my dad wasn’t her everything like she thought he was. That God is her everything and that in spite of crushing loss, He’s there! And He carried her through, just as He promises! She learned that God is faithful through our darkest moments, and when she thought there was no hope, that her life had ended when my dad left, God showed her that He gives beauty for ashes, strength for fear, and gladness for mourning. His mercies are new every morning!
A note about my dad; I love my dad, deeply and truly. I see my dad for who he is. Some people may wonder why I would even continue to have a relationship with my dad. The truth is, my dad is only human after all. Yes, he’s made a lot of mistakes, but he’s paying for them, deeply, and that breaks my heart. I have come to love and accept my dad where he’s at. He was severely mistreated as a child, and as a result, went on to mistreat others, much like a lot of us. We are all imperfect. We ALL make mistakes that not only affect us, but those close to us. I choose to love my dad, I choose to rise above his imperfections and see the good in him, because it IS there. I continue to pray for my dad, that he would seek the help that he needs and deserves. I pray that he will find freedom from the chains of bondage that hold him back, so that the man God created him to be would emerge.
Me and my Dad on my wedding day.
That’s the thing about absolute brokenness; if you have the courage to face it head on, God can and WILL do amazing things. His refining work in our heart and soul brings us closer to who we are in Him. He will show us who we are if we simply look into the face of God, for it’s in HIM where we will see our true reflection.
** Among many of her gifts, Allison is an accomplished songwriter! To listen to her title song STRONGER from her CD, click here.
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About our guest writer . . . Allison lives in Seattle, WA with her husband Ernesto and their two beautiful children, Blake and Charlotte. In addition to her first and most important job of being a stay-at-home mom, Allison enjoys using her gifts and passions as an outlet for her creativity! She leads worship at her church in Maple Valley, loves crafting and any DIY projects. Most recently, she has decided to pursue her passion for real estate by becoming an agent in an effort to help others find their dream home! She has a very blessed and perfectly imperfect life!
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