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The Day My Life Ended

wedding pic smashed with hammer

 

May 1987

It is mid-morning…Bright sunshine along with a refreshing breeze filters into the living room through the open wooden sliding doors.  The rustic room is cool, partially in the shadows.  The mood is somber.
Those present are: my husband of 37 years, myself, three of our children, a son-in-law, plus an American pastor and his wife who are visiting us.

A tragic life-changing conversation is in progress. . .
My son is speaking, with tears in his eyes:  “Dad, you didn’t only betray Mom; you betrayed all of us six kids.”

This horrible, sinking feeling in the pit of my stomach keeps worsening, it won’t stop.  I know my world has just now forever changed. I was hanging onto my sanity, even as I wanted to run screaming from the room, shouting NO, no, no. . .
I was in total shock as I looked at my husband. I had no words. I knew our relationship had serious problems.  But this?

My adult children had discovered their father had other children outside of our marriage, with a woman I knew well whom had been a friend.  Their relationship started over 12 years earlier.  As my children and our friends spoke with my husband, they discovered my husband had been involved with even more women as well, at least two of them whom I knew and loved.

I was speechless and sick.  How could this be possible?  What do I do now?
God, help me please. How could this have happened? What is wrong with me? Am I stupid?

 “Oh God! Now what?”

Infidelity –
Is there a difference between a one time and a life style?

I had struggled with my husband’s infidelity at the beginning of our marriage.  I loved him.  He had such a storehouse of talents.  He could sing, lead people, and preach. He had a charismatic personality which covered the inner problems he battled of sarcasm and anger.  We had been married for just a few years when the infidelity happened for the first and, I thought, the last time.

We had three small children five and under.   For about three years, we were constantly with one other couple. Camping. Game nights. Movies.  Our children played well together. One small incident happened on one of our camping trips that had made me uneasy. I talked with my husband about it, and was reassured.

One sunny morning in August, soon after my husband left for his business, the phone rang.  I picked it up quickly before it awakened my small crew.  It was the husband of the other couple and he had difficulty speaking.  “Voni, your husband and my wife have been having an affair for over two years.  I found a note last night.”

Three months without knowing what was going to happen…I forgave him and then had to wait for him to work out releasing the other relationship, for it was OVER.  I was determined to keep my marriage. The day before our oldest child’s 6th birthday, my husband released the past and turned toward our future.                                                                                                                                          He asked forgiveness.
We moved to Texas, with our three small children.
It was rough. I learned the necessity to continue forgiving, and we began re-building our marriage.  I also learned to pay attention when I felt that little twinge of a red flag when he was around some specific woman, and would warn him to be careful. He listened.

We had some good years.  Challenging and good. Our relationship strengthened, and we were working together.  He was running a business, and started studying at a college when he was 30.  We moved to a small oil town in Oklahoma (one stoplight where the main street crossed the “highway”) and he began preaching at a small church. Wow, the things I learned!

(Did you know if you bring your clothes frozen off the line, they are perfect for ironing.  No steam iron necessary?)  (Did you know that when people in the congregation get upset with the preacher, they usually start talking badly about his wife or kids?)  I learned how to type the bulletin and run it off on the mimeograph machine. –look that up on Google.  Our family spent many hours in a friend’s storm cellar, as tornadoes passed over.  Those – and many other valuable life lessons.  I got to study Greek – and loved it.  I got undulant fever (brucellosis) from bad milk. (Another one to Google.)  … and more.

We moved to Oregon, where my husband preached at a larger congregation.  Loved those people!  More life lessons.

In 1967, we moved to Brazil to serve as missionaries. By that time, we had five children, from 15 years old down. (Our sixth child was born in Brazil.) I painfully learned life lessons of culture shock . . . and the “red flag” started flying.  I didn’t understand what and why, but my husband changed.

I sensed there might be other women . . . but there was nothing concrete.  I continued loving him, learning, caring for our children, bonding into the culture.  Our home was filled with our children, their friends, others who came to talk, learn English, and learn more about our Lord.  Life was full, with adventure after adventure as the years went by.

We started a language school as a tool for income (which we needed), and a way to reach into the community. Inner loneliness was a part of my life.  We were busy: our lives were full.  But the relationship I desired with my husband was not there: it was gone. Although no one knew it, I was living in anguish.

Looking back, I realize my husband “set me up”, asking me to teach an intensive language class with a CEO of a large firm, who was a womanizer. I didn’t know that fact; my husband did.  Classes five days a week, three hours each day. In our English classes I was able to share about Christ and what He meant to me, and my student and I became friends.  The day came when I realized the loneliness in my life was making me vulnerable to the possibility of emotional involvement. I entered into a battle with myself I’d never thought was possible.    It was God Who gave me the strength to pull out of the situation and kept me safe.  But I learned a new humility and understanding that I’ve never forgotten

More years passed.  A young woman, whom I’d loved, sat on my lap, weeping, asking my forgiveness for an affair she’d had with my husband.  She was the age of one of our daughters, and this had almost destroyed her.  I was angry and heartsick. I told my husband if this happened again, I was leaving, and he knew I meant it.

Over the years, I had  spent hours and hours studying Bible scriptures about marriage.
I knew them well.

e.g.How  the attitude of both should be toward
one another.
  And if he doesn’t treat me with love and honor,
God will not listen to his prayers.  (I like that one!)  Check it out
here:1 Peter 3 The Message (MSG)Cultivate Inner Beauty1-4 The same goes for you wives:
Be good wives to your husbands, responsive to their needs
. There are husbands  who, indifferent as they are to any words
about God,  will be captivated by your life of holy beauty.
What matters is not your outer appearance—the styling of
your hair, the jewelry you wear, the cut of your clothes—
but your  inner disposition.
4-6 Cultivate inner beauty, the gentle, gracious kind that
God delights in. The holy women of old were beautiful
before God that way, and were good, loyal wives to their
husbands. Sarah, for instance, taking care of Abraham,
would address him as “my dear husband.”
You’ll be true daughters of Sarah if you do the same,
unanxious and unintimidated.The same goes for you husbands: Be good husbands to your
wives. Honor them, delight in them. As women
they lack some of your advantages. But in the new life
of God’s grace, you’re equals. Treat your wives, then,
as equals so your prayers don’t run aground”    [italics mine]

 

Next question:  How do I know my husband (or anyone else) really loves God, and therefore I can trust them when they say they love me?

The Only Way to Know We’re in Him
1 John 2 The Message (MSG)

2-3 Here’s how we can be sure that we know God in the right way: Keep his commandments.

4-6 If someone claims, “I know him well!” but doesn’t keep his commandments, he’s obviously a liar. His life doesn’t match his words. But the one who keeps God’s word is the person in whom we see God’s mature love. This is the only way to be sure we’re in God. Anyone who claims to be intimate with God ought to live the same kind of life Jesus lived.

9-11 Anyone who claims to live in God’s light and hates a brother or sister is still in the dark. It’s the person who loves brother and sister who dwells in God’s light and doesn’t block the light from others. But whoever hates is still in the dark, stumbles around in the dark, doesn’t know which end is up, blinded by the darkness.

I asked myself, what is hate?
Not walking in God’s love, not keeping His commandments – can that lead to hate?
If someone goes against His commandments, can I believe anything they say?

In reality, God’s commandments generally go against our own selfish nature.
Our tendency is to put ourselves, our desires and our needs, as the first priority in our lives. If we haven’t established God’s boundaries in our lives, we will ignore the God-given rights of others. Therefore, what was my husband’s real attitude towards me?  Obviously, not one of love.

God heard the vows my husband and I made together – yet, my husband broke them when he put his own desires ahead of his family. When he stopped caring for, protecting and serving those whom he had promised to care for, although he said he loved God and loved us, his life turned into a lie. But we – his family- didn’t know this, and many things happened we didn’t understand.

Obviously, this wasn’t a one-time action.  It had happened only one time in the states. I have no idea what happened when we moved to our new country?
But that morning in our living room, I learned he’s had a lifestyle with different women, over many years; all of this while we were in public “ministry” together: singing, teaching the Bible, and recording cd’s with our band. I loved those young men who worked with us over the years.  I loved the children’s group I was working with: we’d presented Kid’s Praise before thousands, and made CD’s that were selling all over the country.  How could we have betrayed the people like this?  (Logically, I knew it wasn’t me but, in these situations, many years may go by before the other spouse is free of the feeling of guilt for the failure.)

I know you may think I’m crazy:  I should have left him long before? By American logic, maybe. However, we were living in a foreign country. In the culture we were living in, divorce was not legalized until 1977.   Infidelity was a common problem in that culture, usually on the part of the husband. And, though I suspected, I had no proof before that young woman crawled into my lap a year and a half earlier. To protect her, although I spoke plainly with my husband, I didn’t talk with others.  She needed protection, and I gave it to her.  Ethically I felt I had no choice.
I made the right decision.  She has grown and matured, helping many others, and I thank God for His goodness!

Some good friends of mine had chosen not to separate from their husbands. I learned to respect and honor these women. They stayed to maintain their homes. It wasn’t because of economics, but was based upon a choice of what would be best for all. I gleaned from their experiences. (Yes, the positive and negative factors are open for debate, and each case needs to be individually assessed. If you wish, we can discuss this aspect later.) A huge difference between them and I was their husbands were not looked at as leaders in any church.

One thing I want to emphasize:  over the years, I did the best I knew how to do before the Lord, based upon the knowledge I had.  Whether others agree with our decisions or not, we walk in the wisdom we have at the time, making choices step by step.

In this new situation I faced, I now knew my husband’s betrayal was far greater than anything I could have imagined, and I accepted in my heart that I had to separate myself from him. We were leaders – I had learned we were not living what we were teaching. The very thing I’d fought against for years, the destruction of our family, I was living in the midst of it, walking down a path with no idea of where it would lead. All I could do was hang onto God’s hand!!!
Isaiah 41: 10,13 Amplified Bible (AMP)
10 Fear not [there is nothing to fear], for I am with you; do not look around you in terror and be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen and harden you to difficulties, yes, I will help you; yes, I will hold you up and retain you with My [victorious] right hand of rightness and justice.
13 For I the Lord your God hold your right hand; I am the Lord, Who says to you, Fear not; I will help you!                                   

We had many friends scattered over the country where we lived, besides those in the US.  This was a mass betrayal, so many people hurt.  Worst of all, the message about following Jesus Christ that we’d shared for over 20 years was sullied!
I was shocked – and ashamed.  How could I have been so stupidly blind?????

 In the next  post, I will begin sharing some of the things I learned from God and His Word  that continued changing my life, gradually relieved the anguish, took away the despair, gave me hope – and I began to laugh again.  It’s quite a mixture.

If you desire to follow this path with me (with a few detours along the way), click on the box and request to receive these posts in your email.

Where Am II?

Where are my hands touching this globe tonight? And where are yours?

On this day, my physical hands are touching our apartment walls in Portland Oregon, USA
I look out the window here and see tall evergreen trees swaying in the breeze, various buildings, a grade school, plus their sports field, an area of green grass that stretches out for perhaps 1/2 of a block.    Below our 4th floor apartment, is a busy street, where the hum of traffic and an occasional siren penetrate through the closed windows.

My heart’s “hands” are touching our apartment in Natal, RN, Brazil.
In Natal, the windows and sliding doors that open onto a tiny balcony are always open.  (When a rain squall comes in from the ocean I “run fast” with my cane, closing them quickly.)  It is a very small apartment:   my “nest.”  When I look out the 3rd floor windows, interspersed between hotels and apartment buildings I see views of the ocean’s tossing waves and a large sand dune about three blocks down the hill.  The street below is cobblestone: some of the stones missing in a couple of places so the cars driving through are cautious. The sounds that drift up into our apartment are an occasional car, voices of pedestrians walking by, and the small wind chimes make a light, clear ringing sound, hanging in the open sliding door.

You and I may be from different continents, different nationalities, and different cultures. Perhaps the color of outer skin on our bodies is different.
But – inside that skin, we are similar.  Our bodies have red blood that our hearts pump.  Our brains are in our heads, between our ears.  (Sometimes I wonder about mine?)

Have you looked at yourself?  Checking to see what your physical hands are touching?
And in your memories? What are your heart’s hands touching?

What did you find?

Finding Eliza — Finding Me

Finding Eliza
Portland, OR
2015/04/16
I’ve been awake since 4:30 this morning. Unable to sleep, I came out to the living room,   put the computer in my lap. Many thoughts going through my brain, but they are a jumble and confused. I’ll attempt to untangle them.

Yesterday afternoon my mind and body were tired after working on the computer resolving different items. I did something I almost never do: I stretched out on our small sofa. My head on one of the cushioned arm rests, my feet up on the other. It felt GOOD:  my logic to continue lying down was that it was good for my circulation, for my feet were higher than my heart.

Since I didn’t want to waste the time, I reached for my purple Kindle and started reading a book called Finding Eliza by Stephanie Fishman. I was going to allow myself only an hour. WRONG!

Instead of that one hour, I stayed several hours on that small sofa, “improving my blood circulation”, engrossed in a story that touched my mind and my heart. I was vividly reminded of the importance of family and friends, how those relationships help us walk through times of “no answers” for what is happening.   How God’s Word makes a “footprint” in our lives, and brings direction. The author painted scenes with her words that are still vivid in my mind.

The hours swiftly passed. I finished the book, closed my Kindle, and stood up thinking. I’d enjoyed my time reading, I like the book, but I am troubled, restless in my spirit. WHY?

As I tap on these computer keys, I want to put into words the untangling of my emotions from reading Finding Eliza and the challenges she had in relationship with her family.

First: be aware I’m writing this from the viewpoint of moving out of my country to another continent and culture, living there most of my life.
To do that I had to leave behind the yearly family picnics, the easy availability to be with my parents and brother; all the extended family… Hundreds of people
Our six children lost contact with their grandparents, aunts and uncles and cousins.

We moved into a culture where extended family is very important. I’d had no preparation for the aching loneliness one experiences without extended family and I wept for my children.    As I lived day by day, I literally hung onto the verse Matt 19:29  when Jesus is speaking.
New International Version
    “ And everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or wife or children or  fields for my sake will receive a hundred times as much and will inherit eternal life.”

This was back in 1967, before satellite, internet, easy international phone calls, no Skype or Facebook or Google  NOTHING!

A letter took about 10 days (going either to or from Brazil), IF it arrived.
The news shots on TV from other countries were flown into Rio de Janeiro, spliced into the news program that was shown smack between two novellas. (A novella is a serial novel shown five nights a week that lasts for several months. When it ends, another one begins.)  The evening in most homes in Brazil were based around the 6 to 7 pm novella (people were arriving from work), the news 7 to 7:45 pm, and the most important novella 7:45 – 9 pm. By the time the second novella began, almost the whole family would be gathered around the TV to watch it.  If you were to walk down the street, you’d hear the sounds of the same program coming from the open doors and windows.  During the day, strangers on the bus and in the beauty salons would  question each other about the previous night’s episode and speculate on the future of the story.

In the 45 years since then,  the communication  ability in Brazil has changed radically.  No more films flown in. Television is now very sophisticated.  But,TV Globo continues with the same lineup for those evening shows.  Strangers still talk with each other, speculating on the episodes.  I love it.

However, in 1967 we were there, living in the midst of a totally different language, a totally different culture.  I am incapable of describing the depth of emotions and questions: the absolute necessity to read the above scriptures time after time to keep my sanity.  We, and our 5 (soon to be 6) children were living in Brazil, and needed to learn how to be “at home.”

It took three years before I began to feel a little at home.  Lifetime friendships beginning to form, more fluent in the language, the city of 2 million beginning to become familiar; I even knew some good shortcuts when driving. I’d gone through many phases of culture shock, and still had more in front of me.  A challenging time, in all areas of my life.

What does this have to do with Finding Eliza?
Eliza was immersed in a different culture: one for which she was unprepared. I was surprised as I found myself identifying with her frustrations, unbelief and anger.
This little book touched heartstrings in my life, playing chords I’d almost forgotten, causing memories to flood into my mind and soul; reminding me once again of the importance  of family.

Family = Love expressed as we learn to stand together, working through varied personalities, disagreements, but still family, even across thousands of miles.

This requires openness, honesty, vulnerability and lots of forgiveness. God knows we often fail miserably in this family assignment He put into our hands. But He gives us the living example of FAMILY UNITY through the Triune God as He invades our lives with blood relatives, spiritual family, and new friendships; intertwining them in and with our lives, enriching and challenging us.  Forceful lessons!  Concepts to think and pray about. . .  

Tonight, while I am still absorbing this lesson, I ask Him about the future.

Will the Lord allow me to travel, having time with loved ones in both the US and Brazil? How I am hoping for that blessing!  I hate separation. There are so many of you whom I long to see.

But, I have no clear ideas about the future  Gos is, once again, placing me in a situation where – if I want inner peace – I must trust Him. I have to smile and quietly chuckle.He has done this to me so many times over the years. One would think I would have this well learned by now. I have learned the deep joy there is in trusting Him .However, in each circumstance there is the ever new challenge of working through the obedience of trusting once again.

I hope I’ve unsnarled most of the emotions and thoughts from my involvement with Eliza.. We’ll see.
Maybe I will sleep better tonight.
And Stephanie Fishman, thank you. Your book, Finding Eliza, connected with me in areas which I’d almost forgotten.

– Voni

 

 

 

Asking for your opinion…

 

Under Construction
Under Construction

Ok – want and need feedback.

 

I JUST FINISHED THE ABOUT ME SECTION

Question:  Would you prefer for this to be a normal post
and enter a shorter About Me?????????????????

PLEASE LET ME KNOW.

This whole process is challenging me…
I know it’s good for me.
It’s definitely better than the “it’s good for me to go to the dentist”.

I love the writing.  It’s learning how to use this blog that is pushing me.
Sure glad some of you are praying for me..
Today, I need wisdom!
James says that if I ask God for wisdom, He will give it to me.

I’m asking!!!!!!!

Voni

My First Post – Under Construction

This blog is under construction – and so am I!

As I look at the pages, all I can see is what it is supposed to be.  I know what I want – and how I want to put it.  It’s clear in my mind.  My problem?  I don’t know how to do it!  

I’ve spent hours, reading through different instructions.  I’ve talked to people on the phone, and they tell me different items.  But I need someone here beside me, my computer in his lap and not mine, his fingers tapping the keys, showing me step by step what to do.

I need to sit beside that someone, write out the instructions as they are given to me – so I can remember. (Sadly, my memory isn’t as agile as it once was.  I’ve had three surgeries for “water on the brain” – the doctors call it hydrocephalus. Not sure if it is that, or the 82+ years my brain has been functioning, which have allowed some of the “valves” to become a little rusty?) e.g. I can’t figure out how to post the pictures and texts.

 

For whatever reason, this is my reality and tonight  I know I need help.
My pride has definitely taken a beating; I’m aware I don’t have the answers I need.

So, finally I’m asking my Father God for help, for wisdom; which He has promised to give me when I ask.

 

Interesting! As I write, some life comparisons are pouring into my mind. 

 

I know who and what I want to be.  It’s clear in my mind.  But I don’t know how to do it!

Over my life years, I’ve read, asked questions.  But I need SOMEONE here beside me, my life in His hands, showing me step by step what to do.
I just need to recognize on a daily basis that HE IS HERE!!!   More than being here, His Holy Spirit has already dictated His life instructions to men and women over thousands of years, and they wrote them down so I can read them!

 

Oh, dear Lord!  Thank You!  Even now, as I write these words, I am feeling your peace in my mind and my body.

And I am chuckling at God’s way of teaching me tonight. Just as I want my life to appear to be “all together” to others, I wanted to present this blog to you as “all together.”

Everything in place . . . nothing lacking.

Guess what!  That’s not going to happen. … You see now and, hopefully, will watch and participate in the growth and development of this blog, just as those who love me see and participate in the growth in my life.

 

WELCOME!  THIS COULD BE INTERESTING AND GOOD.

And to that I say, “So be it.”