“If it had not been the Lord who was on our side, let Israel now say-if it had not been the Lord who was on our side, when men rose against us, they would have swallowed us alive. So then, when their wrath kindled against us, the waters would have overwhelmed us; the stream would have gone over our soul, and the swollen waters would have gone over our soul.
Blessed be the Lord, who has not given us as prey to their teeth. Our soul escaped as a bird from the snare of the fowlers; the trap was broken; we have run. Our help is in the name of the Lord, who made heaven and earth.”
(Psalm 124, NKJV).
I have shared tidbits of my story simply because if it is possible to save some from falling into the same trap, I fell into and remained in for most of my life, this is worth my vulnerability. Of course, my loss was significant, and my struggles are real, but I will not be silent about the goodness of God during these times to give you the same hope the Lord gave me as a guiding light (Jere. 29:11-14, NIV). Hope and Grace gave me the strength to persevere when it was impossible to leave, as some would angrily say; however, no one can compete with my inner critic regarding judgment. So when Grief comes knocking at the door of my heart, I welcome it and visit for a while. Healing washes over me through my tears and cleanses me of guilt. I am also committed to staying awhile in the grieving process to heal my inner childhood wounds. However painful it is, I can’t count the times the Lord has blessed me and his faithfulness toward me throughout my suffering.
What was meant for evil, God told for the good of those who love Him. (Romans 8:28, NIV)
Yes, I struggle over my son’s sudden death, get angry at times, and feel despair, but I remember the gift of time with my son and his words for me to live before his death. I grieve time lost with him and future memories. Although his life was cut short, he lived, loved, and gave his best to his wife, children, and everyone he encountered. Therefore, I want to honor him by living my best life.
As I continue to write, I want to share my story and feelings; I want to share how amid my pain, the Lord was with me, and He turned what should have been a bitter ending into a time of joy and adventure. Unfortunately, shame wants to silence and keep us in captivity. The devil also wants the next generation to remain in detention. In this cycle of destructive behavior, shame was birthed in the Garden of Eden and continues depriving us of living the life God intended (Genesis 3). Furthermore, when the Lord sent Adam and Eve out of the garden, God went with them and continued walking with us till the very end.
KEY TO FREEDOM
I grew up ignoring my pain, desires, dreams, and the gift of spontaneity; that’s how it was in my culture. However, my perspective shifted after leaving my destructive marriage and having coffee with my son one morning. I felt ashamed of my failures toward him and his sisters. With tears, I asked for forgiveness. I isolated myself because of what others would think and say, and I didn’t know what my next step would be. Finally, he said, ” Mom, I don’t care what people think; live your life.” It was as if those words were the key that unlocked an invisible force that kept me stuck. I remembered the song from Lynyrd Skynyrd, FreeBird, instantly came to mind. A heavy burden fell from me; I felt like a Free Bird, and I wanted to stretch my wings and soar (Isaiah 40:31, NIV).
I know this sounds crazy, which is to my advantage, so that afternoon, while working, I remembered all the years I spent working as a single, married woman, working to provide for my ex because he refused to work, and my children. So I called my mom and asked how long it would take her to pack for a trip; we were going to MONTANA! She was excited to see my aunt and uncle, her brother-in-law, who was camping there for the summer, and she called me several times to ensure I was not going to back out. I almost did after reality set in, but I knew I had to face my fears.
After talking to my mom, I called my son and told him that I /we were going on a thirteen-hour trip to Montana. My son was stunned and said, “Uh, mom, are you sure?” I reminded him of his comments earlier that day and said, I want to travel; that’s how I want to live the remainder of my life while I am still able. My grown children are careful about saying things like that because I am known to fly on a whim. So, of course, they were concerned about two older women traveling across states alone; honestly, I was terrified after the adrenaline subsided. However, I am not entirely spontaneous without considering our safety. My aunt and uncle were staying in Montana, and we set up tracking on my phone so that he could monitor our whereabouts. I also want to mention that my uncle is a retired professional photographer. He served in Vietnam and won several awards for his outstanding photography works; you can google John Betancourt and see some of his works. I also promised my siblings and kids I would send photos of our journey and let them know we safely arrived at our halfway point in Ogden Ut.
As I finished my job, I thought I must have completely lost my mind. I never traveled that far alone, and although my mother was going to be with me, I thought to myself, ” how in the world would she be able to help?” So I prayed and asked the Lord to protect us as we traveled. I also got an oil change, and the tires were checked after work. Finally, we packed the car with snacks, plenty of water, blankets, pillows, etc. And of course, my son did the final inspection and shared his concerns, do’s, and don’ts before we headed out. We were on the road at four o’clock the following day. My seventy-eight-year-old mother was like a child filled with wonder. I knew this would be our last trip together, and I wanted it to be memorable. I came back home with a new perspective on life, and I no longer have the desire to be bound by false beliefs, material things that can weigh me down, and my relationships. I have gone on several trips and dream of owning a Winnebago, so I can continue exploring God’s handy work. I also gave myself a new name, FreeBird. No matter what I went through or what I lost, the one thing I gained was my freedom when I walked away from my emotionally destructive marriage.
Lastly, one year ago today, on the fourth of July, my uncle and I stood with cameras in hand; I felt overwhelmed with joy. I cried tears of joy because I felt the shackles fall from me for the first time in many years and experienced the meaning of true freedom Christ Jesus died to give us.
I want to thank my uncle, Johnny Betancourt, and those who have given their lives for our freedom.
Happy Fourth of July!