I swung by the county government buildings this morning to reserve a park shelter for Olivia's birthday party. As I was leaving I drove past the juvenile court building and saw a well dressed young woman about my age crossing the street with someone who appeared to be her attorney. She was obviously not young enough to be a juvenile so I assumed that she must be entering the court to attend a custody hearing. Maybe, maybe not... regardless it took me back 3 years to the horrible custody battle I went through with Madison's father... what a bad time in my life. He wanted to have Madison 1 full week every other week. He took it to court when I refused to agree. Why would I? She was 7 at the time and had lived with me since we separated in '99. What an unstable way to live. He said he wanted to spend more time with her, but he also voiced his opinions about my new "christian" lifestyle.
I was completely blind sided at court. I thought it seemed pretty cut-and-dry going into the hearing. However, it turned out to be very far from cut-and-dry. My new faith & church attendance were brought up at the hearing. How absurd! I guess when I was partying & getting high I was setting a better example for our daughter. I will never forgot the look in the judge's eyes as she came out of her chambers & declared... "I'm about to rock your world". She granted him full physical custody & gave me weekend visitation. My body went completely numb & I could hardly stand... or breath as I slowly exited the court room. My attorney was completely dumbfounded. He searched for words to comfort me as his mouth hung open in disbelief. Once he gained his composure he softly told me that he had never been able to walk out of a court room and not be able to explain to his client what went wrong. He just couldn't understand. There was no reasonable explanation for it. Her father came over with an aggravating smirk on his face to let me know that I was "allowed" to take her for the night, but he'd get her the following day after school. I wanted to vomit. I took her home and filed an appeal that week.
I went to speak to my pastor the following Sunday. He had been praying for the hearing & we wanted to let him know what had happened. When we started our conversation he stopped me when he realized the direction it was going & he knew what had happened. He knew which judge we had as well. Apparently we were the 6th family in our church (we have a big church) that this had happened to in our county... same judge. I guess she had a real problem with our church and presence in the community or perhaps christians in general. No wonder our church attendance & faith kept being brought up! I was infuriated. I was mad at her father, I was mad at the judge, I was mad at God... I was angry & quickly withdrew into myself. I became extremely defensive, very protective & withdrawn. Life kept going though. The decision from the juvenile judge was in the spring. My new appeal date in district court wasn't until September. We ended up getting Madison most of the summer anyway because of her father's work schedule. I was grateful for that. I was not so excited about having to deal with the man who had done this to me though. I hated him so much. I hated talking to him, I hated thinking about him, I hated seeing him. It was horrible. The Lord kept speaking to my heart though and reminding me that Love Never Fails. I did my best to be patient and kind... it was so hard. I remember times when I'd throw my phone across the room... oh, those stupid phone calls. One day I was at my desk in the church office & I completely forgot where I was as I spat off some choice words right before I slammed the phone down... hard. I think it was her birthday & he was refusing to let me see her.
What a dark dark time in my life. I was a fairly new christian and I became so angry at God. What happened to taking care of me Lord. What happened to never leaving me & never forsaking me. How could you Lord?
I had my guns loaded for the appeal. I had letters of praise from my current managers (the children's ministry directors at my church), her teacher was there as a witness, her cheer coach was there as a witness... I had a support team there who had committed to praying in the hallway during the hearing. I was ready. After the hell that we went through with the juvenile judge I didn't know what to expect. My reality had been distorted. What happened in the court room had left me feeling like an inadequate mother & I had come to a place where I was starting to believe it... after all I did have my daughter removed from my home. What good mother has that happen to her? The appeal hearing was a huge success. The judge even acted a bit confused as to how things had turned out the way they did in the first place. No witnesses needed to be called and I had my daughter back at home where she belonged.
There was a lot of bad in what I went through that summer (and what Madison had to go through), but now I'm far enough out of the situation to realize the good that came from it as well. Any time you go through a fire like that you come out on the other side a little more refined than when you went in.
Her father and I get along so much better these days. We work together instead of against each other now for Maddy's sake. It's good for her.
I remember how hopeless I was at the beginning of that situation. I was so confused. I didn't understand God's goodness like I do now, but even so... I knew that as angry as I was at God it wasn't really His fault & I knew He'd carry me through and He did.
Being around those court buildings today reminded me about the commitment I made to myself after all of the court stuff was said and done. I vowed to always pray for our justice system and also for other people who have had unjust results in the system.
It took me a long time to forgive that judge. It took me a long time to forgive her father.
I felt so powerless. All I could do was pray and do my best to walk in love.
As I pulled away from the government buildings this morning I tried to think of a time that God hasn't come through for me... nothing came to mind! He has ALWAYS come through for me... not once has He let me down. God is so faithful and so just...
He's such a good God & I love Him so much!
We planned a Disney get away in May of that year for Madison's birthday. It was supposed to be a celebration trip once our court date was over. Little did we know it was actually just going to be getting started. It was a nice trip regardless. We were able to escape from all that was going on back home....