INVASION

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I had a beautiful strawberry patch at the beginning of the summer. I had worked the ground, prepared the soil, delicately hand planted every single small yet mighty strawberry sprout. I watered them and watched them shoot and grow. I tended to them with the greatest of care and knew that my work invested now would pay out with delicious, ripe, sun kissed red fruits later. I was excited, and proud of myself, and easily found the time to invest into my garden and especially my little patch of fruits.

Summer came upon us and we filled our time with travel and laughter and fun. I noticed the weeds beginning to grow in the garden, and every time we would drive out of the driveway past the little plot, I would remind myself that when we got home, I really needed to tend to those weeds, but for now there was better things to do!

Another week passed, then another, and before I knew it, it had been a month and I had not been in the garden at all, except to occasionally pick what fruits or veggies I needed at the time. I had all but forgotten the garden even existed except when I needed to revisit it for something to serve.

By now, the weeds had grown taller than the stalks of the highest vegetable plants, and the strawberry patch couldn’t be  seen because of the growth draping over it, concealing it from the daylight. It still lived, just hidden under the darkness waiting for me to tend to it.

Somehow, during the invasion, I told myself it was alright. I saw the weeds begin to show, but I could still see my fruits, so I let the few weeds go. Then, as they became more and deeper in their roots, I again told myself it was alright because I could easily take care of them when I had time. I could put my strawberry patch aside until I felt like tending to it. Now, I couldn’t even see it because the invaders had covered up all of its beauty and were beginning to snuff it out…but there was one mighty little sprout that stuck its little green leaves out for me, and I knew he was showing me where I needed to tend to first…so I dug in.

At first, it was easy to see the weeds. I could easily identify which plant was good, and which was sucking the life out of my garden. I was pulling them out, one by one, and cleaning up my little patch nicely. I kept going and going. What could have taken me a few minutes in those first few days was now going to take hours of weeding.

Time passed and a strange thing began to happen. It became harder and harder to identify the fruit from the weeds. I would pull what I thought to be a weed, but it would actually be a fruit, and I would save what I thought to be a fruit, but it would be a weed! I was being deceived.

You see, the weeds had disguised themselves to look like the fruit. The shape of their leaves had evolved and even begun to change shape and color to match that of the fruit. The weeds were rooting right through the heart of the strawberry sprout, going deep into the plants lifeline. Even when I could identify the invader, when I would go to eliminate it, it would pull out the plant with it. My little strawberry plants just weren’t rooted deep enough to survive alone, and this invader had deceived them as well, giving them a strong deep root to wrap themselves around. They didn’t know that this root was their own undoing, their own death. They only knew that they could hold on to the root of the deceiver and stay alive. Not much of a life, being swallowed up under the overgrowth and covered in darkness, but they were surviving and hanging on in hopes that eventually, they could be saved.

I kept working, delicately separating the invaders from the roots of the fruit and reburying the fruit in the loose damp soil. I had to re-prepare the soil to accept the fruit because it had been neglected so long, but the soil was still good, and the plants were just strong enough that they would still be able to thrive.

After some time, I had rescued my little patch from the invaders and they were all standing tall. I could see every little shoot and every leaf. My fruits were once again pure. For now.

You see, the invaders left behind seeds. Every time I would pull them out and discard them, they would drop many tiny little seeds over my fruits. They were many, and some so small I didn’t even see them as they fell to the plants and the soil. As I would cover my little plants, some of the seeds would sneak deep into the soil where they will lie and wait. They will steal the nutrients and suck in the water as I tend to my fruits, and I wont even know they are silently beginning to take root.

I wont be able to leave my fruit to defend itself. It will need my time and my care. I will need to tend to it, and keep a close eye on the sprouts and the foundation around it.

More invaders will come. They are already lurking underground. If I am not there to pull them out by the root when they first appear, the will again overpower and overtake my fruits. In their deceit, I wont even notice it at first until they have completely covered my fruits in the darkness. It is important that I tend to my garden and I work hard to identify the weeds among the plants. It wont be easy, because their deceit runs deep and they use disguise…but it can be done, and their damage can be undone.

How are your fruits doing? Are they producing or are they being invaded? Are you tending to them, or are you being deceived? How often are you visiting your garden? Are you only taking the fruit and using it when you need it, or are you watering it and weeding it daily and weekly?

Evil is a deceiver. It will appear and take root in your heart. It will provide you with stability at first as it deepens its grip on your lifeline. It will disguise itself so that you cant really tell the difference between it and what is good. It will confuse you and control you. Eventually, you will become swallowed up in its darkness where it will hold you captive and you will try to survive, try to just hang on until you can be freed from its grips and growth. But sin also lives in fear. Sin is the invader that knows that it can be eliminated. It will drop more seeds, but those, too, can be eliminated as they begin to show. You can’t ignore it, it must be tended to OVER and OVER again, forever. But the good news is that even though it will continue to exist within you, you can keep it from rooting deep in your heart. You can eliminate it as it begins to show and you can prepare yourself to not be deceived as it attempts to invade you.

My garden will thrive only when I treat it with care and invest into it. It will produce a little or a lot, depending on my diligence. It will feed me and my family a few small, undergrown fruits here and there, OR it will be abundant and feed my family, friends and neighbors for an entire season.

Its all up to me and you. I will ask again…How are your fruits?

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The last words I ever said to “Him”.

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written and sent on June 7, 2010…

“being busy is an easy excuse as to why i havent called or written, but i guess for me that really isnt the only reason. i dont know why, but for some reason there are just a lot of things that i feel like i cant say to you, or that im afraid to say because i dont know what is and isnt appropriate, and i dont ever want to offend or hurt you. i really loved being able to rebuild a relationship with you, and it has been very healthy for me to hear your side of some of the things that happened between you and debbie. on the same note, sometimes hearing it, or talking about my past (or your past as it pertains to me, even some of the really great things and great memories) brings things up within me that are hard to deal with and hard to think about. again, i dont ever want to offend or hurt you, but its just hard because sometimes i get the impression that the childhood and adolecent life that i remember has been interpreted a little differently by me than it was by you (or by debbie when she was alive). i dont want to make you feel like there werent so many things that you guys did right, because there were many things that i appreciate, and that i as a parent understand and see the importance of. unfortunately though there was also a lot of wrong. im thankful for my past and for the character it has built within me, but i also see now as a wife and a mother, and even as a daughter that it is never okay to raise a child in a home that isnt built on a solid foundation.

(im sorry, but right now im reaching for the words that can best explain how i feel, and sometimes i just dont know how to say it)

being a mother i feel like my singlemost important job is to protect my children from the evils of this world and instill in them self respect and self worth and to try to do this in ways that are healthy and productive for them. before i was a parent myself, it was easy for me to “overlook” some of the techniques used in the way i was parented. obviously, even by the age of 13 i knew that some things were wrong, and extreme, and i knew that it wasnt appropriate for a child to be raised in that, but it was also very easy for me to forgive, and to move past because at that time it only involved myself. before becoming a parent, and even during the first two years of devins life, i found that i was still able to keep that mindset. the mindset that everytrhing from my past was in the past, and that it didnt effect me, or that i had forgiven and moved past it. the truth is though that im finding that i am not as strong as i once thought and that the more and more in depth i become as a parent, the harder and harder i find it to have a relationship with you. i want to be kind, and to show you grace and to completely forgive and forget the past, but now that i am a mom, its so hard. i know that nick and i live a VERY VERY different life than the life you and debbie lived, and i know that in a home where there are drugs and alchohol some things that arent okay might seem “not so bad”. the fact that there were even drugs or alchohol in a home where a child was being raised is just absolutely disturbing and just wrong. i know that its easy for me to say because i am not a drug addict or an alchoholic (or a smoker for that matter, another thing that a child shouldnt have to be raised around) , but i also think that out of the love that i have for my children that if i would ever find myself in a situation where i found either of these to be a weakness for me, i would remove myself from them in order to protect them and i would seek help to try and get as healthy as i possibly could be so that i could reunite with them as soon as possible. if i couldnt remove myself from them, i would find a way to remove them from the situation and get them somewhere safe and healthy where they wouldnt have to observe either of those addictions. protecting and caring for my children is the most important thing i can do for them, and if i do that, then everything else that i need to do to help them grow and deveop should fall into place from there. unfortunately in my home growing up, the addictions were just the beginning….

ive found myself many times making excuses for you and debbie as to why the things that happened happened. i find myself saying “oh she wouldnt have done that if she werent high on drugs” or “he wouldnt have done that if he werent drunk”, but there arent excuses. there isnt excuses to validify hitting your wife, hitting your husband, or EVER EVER HITTING YOUR CHILD. i know that you and debbie both grew up in homes where you observed and experienced this very behavior. i know that statistically they say that this behavior continues in families because a child raised in it thinks that the behavior is okay and will then adopt the behavior themselves. im sorry, but that behavior is not okay. i was raised in it, and i knew it was not okay, i still know that it is not okay, and one of the hardest things for me to deal with as an adult is the question as to WHY DIDNT EITHER OF YOU THINK IT WASNT OKAY? didnt you remember what it was like when your dad hurt you? didnt she remember what it was like? did either of you watch your parents get into physical altrications and remember what you felt like when observing them? how could it have never crossed the minds of either of you that you were introducing me to the same evils or your very own past that hurt and scarred you?

i fear even right now writing this that in your mind you are defending yourself, defending your own past and your metholds of parenting. it seems like most of the people i have met that have “problems” often feel like everyone else is the “problem” or that the person telling them that they have a problem is wrong, or not valid in pointing it out. the intent of this email isnt to point fingers or to try to demean you, or to hurt you in any way. its just that every single time i have talked to you (since becoming an adult) i get this big ball in the pit of my stomach. its all of these feelings and questions that i have, and when i am face to face, or talking to you on the phone i cant find the words to ask them. i cant find the words to say or im afraid to say them because i fear that if i question you, you will downplay it, or make excuses, or make me feel like “things werent that bad.” and maybe that is how you feel, or how things were for you in the situation, but for me, they were that bad. (and maybe im projecting what “i think” you might be thinking, and im way way off) im not going to go into what exactly i went through, or how it made me feel…i just need you to know that it was bad, and that everytime i talk to you i find myself back in that place. i so want a realtionship with you, and i so want to be able to chat about our shared love of animals and gardening and politics but when im talking about those things my insides are all balled up thinking about the things i ‘cant’ say. i love those conversations with you, but for the next few days i find that i deal with a flood of emotions because i have to again revisit the past and continue to wonder why things were the way they were and wonder why i cant just bring myself to ask you.

im so happy that you have found love in carolyn, and that you are not alone…but that too brings up so many concerns and issues for me. i know there has already been fighting and not getting along between the two of you, (and i dont know what kind of “fighting”) but it all makes me revisit your relationship with debbie. ive never asked you because i dont know how, but are your “fights” with her the same as your “fighting” in the past? once i had called you (it was actually one of the last times i had talked to you, and was actually what prompted me to put a hold on our communications) and carolyn answered. i had asked her how things were and she seemed very happy, but she had coyly mentioned that she “wouldnt put up with you when youve been drinking.” i cant even tell you what this little statement did to me. i know your life is your life, and your choices are your own, but the very thought that you would again return to alchohol just sickened and (if im being honest) infuriated me. you are an adult and you are free do to as you wish, but when i heard that there was even a chance that you were again stepping back into alchohol i knew that i needed to remove myself from the situation. i cant be in contact with a person that is an alchoholic, just as i will never be able to be in contact with a person that is a drug addict. people that chose that life are not productive to my life. i dont know if that is coming out the way i intend for it to, or if it just sounds rude and wrong, but if saying it means that i am rude i guess it has to be so. there is not a place in my life, nor my families life for addictive behavior- abusive behavior- sinful behavior….just as a dog returns to its own vomit a sinner returns to sin. maybe im too harsh, maybe im unforgiving… i dont know, but i know that it is my job to protect my family and protect my children and that starts with protecting myself. if you are drinking, or having physical altrications- im sorry…i cant have a relationship with you. this isnt to hurt you, and im in no way judging the way you live your life- im only protecting my own spirit. having a relationship with a person who is in an addictive or abusive relationship (be it with a person, with alchohol, or with a substance) could break my spirit and could really do damage in my life, and for that reason i must be strong and determined in not allowing that into my life. i hope that i am way way off and that none of this is a problem in your life right now, and i hope that you are as alchohol free and as healthy as can be! again, these are just questions that i find that when i am on the phone with you i cant bring myself to ask.

finally, where is this relationship going and what exactly is this relationship? this is a question that nick is constantly asking me. i guess i need to just tell you what i am thinking and feeling. ive put a great deal of thought and a great deal of stress into figuring out what is the best way to approach this. i really love that you have put so much effort and i can tell love into trying to build a relationship with me and my family. its very kind and i know that you are just trying to be a “dad” to me. the reality is though, that you and i dont have a ‘normal’ father daughter relationship, or bond. i will never strip you of the title ‘FATHER’ because for 13 years you were my father, and im sure that in your heart you will always be a father, and in my heart you will always be my ‘dad’. i dont know if im going to get through this next part using the right words. i love you, and i do want a relationship with you, whatever kind of relationship we can have as long as you are free from alchoholism, but my job as a mother is to protect my children. this hurts me so much to say…but my children cant have a relationship with you. my children cant know (until they are adults and able to comprehend what has happened in my life) who you are. i cant explain to them who you are, or let them talk to you or have a relationship with you. my dad tim is their grandpa, my mom rita is their grandma. even if your life is completely healthy now, i just cant do it. i cant try to explain these things to them, and i cant have them around you because the one time we brought devin into your house and i saw you holding him, i didnt feel like i was protecting him. I KNOW THAT YOU WOULD NEVER EVER DO ANYTHING TO HURT THEM, and i dont question your intentions at all, it isnt you at all, its me. when i step into your house, im a child again, and the feelings of my childhood flood my being. to see you holding or to watch you have a relationship with my kids makes me feel like i am failing to protect them, or that i am introducing them to something that they shouldnt know. i would love to tell you how they are, and to tell you about their development and their successes, but i just cant let you be a grandfather to them. i cant give devin cards and gifts from you and try to explain who you are, or why you are sending him a gift. i didnt understand how all of this was going to effect me until devin became old enough to ask me “who is this from?” when i handed him a card from you. i cant answer him. i know everything im saying right now is hurting you, and that hurts me so much. i wish so badly that it could be different, but i know that it cant. i dont know if this seems extreme, or like im trying to hurt you, or like im trying to keep something from you, i dont know how you are feeling right now. all i know is myself, my husband and what we have decided would be the best way to protect and raise our children and the conclusion that we have come up with is this, i shouldnt even say we, its me. its the only way for me. like i said in the beginning i would LOVE for you to see pictures of the kids, see my daily updates of what they have done that day or what their little successes and accomplishments are.  i would love to share that with you, but it would be between us. it cant involve them, does this make sense? i dont know if it does to you, or to anyone else. for me, it does though. right now this is how i would need for it to be.

i dont know where all of this puts us. i cant tell you how to interpret anything ive just said, and im sorry if anything ive said brings you back to a place (emotionally) that you dont want to be. believe me, im in that place far too often and i dont want to be the cause of making someone else feel ‘bad’. i hope that by sending this im answering questions that you might have as to why i havent contacted or called you in a while. i dont know if things came across the right way, i dont know if god gave me the words to explain how i am feeling without being hurtful. im not a direct and confrentational person, and even typing this makes me feel like im attacking you. i really hope that nothing ive said made you feel “attacked” or “ambushed”…its not my intentions at all! i guess i just have a few questions and i am not even sure if they are questions that can be answered or not. i hope that we can continue a relationship, and im open to whatever you have to say, to whatever you are feeling, and to whatever you are thinking. and im fine with continuing our talks, i just havent called because i knew that i needed to direct these things before we could continue (and quite honestly it was easier for me to just not call, than to have to bring all of this up).

im not sure what “salutations” is appropriate to end a letter like this…i just hope that i havent offended you, and that you feel like you can respond to me. i really do care about you,, and the very last thing i want to tell you is how hard it has been for me to say these things because i knew that in asking and saying them, i could hurt you. i care anough about you that it has been easier for me to feel and deal with it than to just come out and say it all. i dont know if that is healthy for either of us or not…but now its all out there.”

….he never responded.