Church Offering

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Church Offering

For those who don’t know me, I am Nancy Batchelor. My

husband, Rob Harriman and I have been part of the Union

Church community now for several years. I have found that

some of the most compelling reflections or offerings, if you will,

have been those given by church community members who have

shared their stories of their life experiences. These stories, I feel,

add to the richness of our lives. Maybe because I am aging (in a

good way) and have more time to settle back, enjoy and reflect. I

love peoples stories. Thus, I bring you my story of healing.

Please excuse my referring to my notes and looking at my watch.

I am not as polished a speaker as Pastor Paula and some of our

other raconteurs.

I grew up in Shaker Heights, a suburb of Cleveland Ohio with my

3 siblings, 2 sisters and one brother. My two parents remained

married for 51 years until my father died. My mother died only 7

years ago. My siblings and I are all still very close. I had a very

happy, comfortable, stable, loving upbringing. I, along with my

sisters, attended a private girls school. We were rather sheltered

and privileged. I and my sisters were debutantes. After high

school I went to a small liberal arts college in Wisconsin and

during my years there I took a long, cross country bike trip with

another woman, college friend. This was in the very early 70’s

and was really my first branching out to discover the world

outside of my childhood bubble. I met and befriended people

who seemed so much more spontaneous and alive, less

encumbered by, what I thought of then, as the confines of a

privileged life. The 70’s, a confusing time of much confounding

personal and cultural growth for many of us who came of age

during this time.

This is my story of my background is to set the scene for

adventures to follow. Again with another college friend following

our graduation, we set out for a road trip to visit friends in

Montana. Our visit turned long term. I met, and fell in love with, a

handsome, older man born and raised in Germany. After

becoming a US citizen he felt compelled to enlist in the Army. He

spent his tour in the infantry in Vietnam before I met him. He

experienced much horror, though he would not ever say much

about it. Within a couple of years we were married and travelled

to Indonesia where he would work as a diesel mechanic for a

mining company. This all sounded like a grand adventure to both

of us. The Indonesian experience was incredible. We were on

what is now known as West Papua New Guinea, but at the time

half of the island was split down the middle and the western side

was a part of Indonesia but under UN protection. We lived in a

mining camp of several hundred people, a very close knit

community of expats and Indonesians. Think jungle and head


I befriended a physician, a woman who came to substitute for

our camp physician when he went on leave, and I chartered a

bush plane to go visit her and her husband who ran a mission

post in the jungle. Most of the land that we flew over was

uncharted mountainous jungle. These missionaries were not of

the evangelical sort, but they were there to help the natives learn

about what was to come, about money, and that they needed to

change their new clothes when wet so they wouldn’t get sick,

etc. They spoke the native dialect, and my friend taught one of

the native men how to set broken bones, suture lacerations, birth

babies and other first aid techniques. I spent two weeks trekking

to various settlements in the jungle with her and her family doing

her rounds. We stayed in huts and ate their food, lots of sweet

potatoes, steamed insect larva, pork. It was an incredible

experience, and we were always met with great ceremony.

My then husband, however, began to drink more and more

heavily and declared himself the only one that was keeping the

mining machinery, and thus the mining operations, going. His

emotions were allover the place as he continued to slowly

implode. One evening, after almost two years I told him I was

going back home. That I was going to leave him. He suddenly

back handed me and started to cry. But rage took over, and over

the course of not a short period of time, he held a knife at my

throat, threw heavy furniture my way, hurled me against a wall. I

was absolutely positive he was going to kill me. Absolutely. I was

sure that I was going to die. I was shocked. He was much bigger

and stronger than I. So my mind did what it can do to protect in

such extreme situations: I completely disassociated. It was as

though I was looking down from the ceiling. Nothing hurt me at

all. At all. I felt very far away. He finally sprained his ankle and

went up to bed.

It was nighttime and I was afraid to open a door or make any

noise, or bother anyone to seek help. Until morning. My eyes

were wide open all night and for the next night as well. Our only

way out of the camp was by mail plane that came twice a week.

That morning I went to the neighbors who took me in and plans

were made to keep me safe. I was given private quarters and

was tenderly looked after. I remember lots of cups of tea.. .

The next day our mail plane was due. Our helicopter pilot flew

me down to the airport to meet the plane, thus avoiding for me a

2 hour jeep ride down a mountainous dirt road full of switch

backs. The plane was Fokker prop plane that held around 28

passengers plus the mail. From there we would fly across the

Arafura Sea to Cairns Australia, our jumping off point to the rest

of the world. During the 3 hour flight someone discovered that

the lavatory was locked from the inside. I was quite sure that my

then husband was inside, and that I was going to have to notify

the pilots of this as we got closer to Cairns.

I began to notice a very odd smell, an odor, and discovered that

it was coming from me! An odor of primal fear. I felt chilled and

broke out in a sweat. Luckily someone was able to unlock the

door and no one was in there much to my enormous relief.

I spent a little bit of time in Australia regrouping and flew home to

my parents. I was so lucky. I had loving support and aside from

some bruises, I was not injured. The psychic wounds however

were much more painful and long lasting. There was no

knowledge of or treatment for PTSD in those days. I powered

through and did the right things as best I could. But I was

emotionally labile. I remember going into a drug store to buy

shampoo and toothpaste and was overwhelmed to tears by all

the choices and ran out of the store. I had frequent, short lived

episodes of sleeplessness and just kept on going.

Within a few months after returning stateside I got a job with a

marketing company, moved into an apartment with a friend and

decided that nursing was my calling. I was accepted into a

graduate nursing program at Case Western Reserve. After

graduation I worked in a cardiac iCU affiliated with the university

for 4 years before moving to Maine. All good. I thought I’d put the

embarrassing, traumatic experience far behind me. I was strong,


In 1990 I met another man who I thought was the love of my life,

a photo journalist who traveled the world. We had a relationship

for several years. He was verbally and emotionally abusive. My

spirit crumpled. During this time however, I again powered on

and went to graduate school here at UNE where I got my Masters

degree and became a nurse anesthetist (a career that I

thoroughly enjoyed for nearly 20 years). I tried for a long time to

extricate this person from my life but in the end had to use legal


But, I finally embarked on the work that really needed to be done.

I worked very hard in therapy for a number of years. It was during

this time of reflection and healing that I finally felt the presence of

a benevolent force, greater than myself. A presence that I could

turn to, a universal force in which I could rest. I could put myself

in the hands of this nonentity. This is where I finally found what I

could call God. Prior to this time, I lived my life as though walking

on a narrow ledge. There was always a cliff. Falling from that cliff

would result in failure. So I simply tried to stay as far away from

that cliff as possible by achieving, doing the ‘right’ things. Kind of

a scary, stressful way to live. Learning to live with and embrace

this new perspective Life became infinitely happier, much more


Fast forward to 2001. I had moved to Kennebunkport and found

new friendships. I was invited to go on a canoeing expedition on

the Allagash River. My canoeing partner was a really nice guy

with an adorable chocolate lab who came with him. 10 days

paddling on the water, you talk about a lot. It was a fabulous trip.

This nice guy was married and I was still stinging from past

relationship. Three years later I was told that the nice guy was

getting divorced. Friends had us for dinner and the rest is

history. I had finally met the love of my life. Truly my better half.

Rob and I were married in 2006. We both consider ourselves

sooo lucky. We support each other in love and trust and give

space, and room to grow. I take refuge in his arms, in his

steadfastness. I could never have asked for a better partner.

I have had to learn and come to terms with the fact that the

effects of trauma and PTSD are long lasting. I am not considered

to still suffer from PTSD, but there are some shreds that remain.

I’ve had much worsening problems with insomnia as I have aged

that did not respond to most remedies. I have had to get

treatment and establish self care disciplines that revolve around

meditation, exercise and diet.

In my past I have flogged myself for the choices I made and

wondered where I would be/what I would be if I’d made different

choices. But I am sooo incredibly blessed that my journey took

me to Maine and that I found love in an incredible human. I

rejoice in the richness of the human experience.

There is much to be said about the issue of domestic violence. It

is hidden behind doors of people of all walks of life. People can

be frustrated by the seemingly futile attempts at helping victims.

But it is the small things, the small observations by others,

acknowledgments that open the door to freedom for these


I close with a quote from the book Made for Goodness by

Desmond Tutu and his daughter Mpho Tutu:

“Cultivating the habit of self-acceptance allows us to live lives of

wholeness. When we can accept our own frailties, we do not

berate ourselves… We learn to be at ease in our own lives. We

learn how to inhabit our own lives. When we recognize our own

limitations, we can let go of the anxious quest for flawless lives.”