I’m sitting in my car at the bottom of the canyon. My mind is racing and I can’t figure out whether to turn around or to go home. If I turn around I will surely do something I will regret and end up in prison. What do I do? Where do I go? God where are you? Tears are flowing down my cheek and all I can do is scream… My name is Monica and I just had a mother’s worst nightmare come true. It happened just shortly after what was supposed to be the start of a great new year. But it wasn’t so great after all. My daughter was inappropriately approached by a family member who made an advance towards her.
This is how my year began. This is what it was supposed to be like. I had a plan. I made a weight loss journal and I made a prayer journal to write what I was thankful for every day, record a scripture, and write something good that happened. This was going to be the best year ever and I was going to lose weight and get in shape! My family and I would grow closer than ever to God and we would live a happy and perfect life. But my heart was crushed. I thought I had my heart broken in the past by pitiful breakups but nothing could compare to the pain you feel when your child goes through something like this. I felt a whole new level of hurt because as I looked into her eyes and saw the pain… I saw myself.
My parents came from a small town in Colorado and eventually moved to Texas for a better life and more opportunities. I remember one summer looking outside our tiny apartment front door and watching my parents leave. I stood there staring through the screen window hoping they wouldn’t leave me home and would take me with them. They left me with a family member to watch after me while they went somewhere very quickly. Well, a lot of things can happen in just a short “quick” amount of time. I never understood as a small child what happened or why it happened to me. I only knew that what he did was wrong, but I never told anyone what happened that day. This is the first time I have spoken about it publicly. It’s not important that you know who it is because I have forgiven him and that is the point that I want you to see. It took a lot of prayer and surrendering completely to God to be able to forgive him. I had to learn that forgiveness wasn’t for the other person but for myself. It was something that haunted me for over 20 years. It was a burden that I couldn’t live with anymore. Finally after spending some time with a pastor from my church, I gave it to God and I forgave him. I always felt unclean and like a disappointment to God. I always wondered how God saw me. But I saw and I heard what God thinks about me. He didn’t see me as a dirty woman, a sex addict or even as a failure. That night I finally became free…. I was free from the burden the enemy had laid so heavily in my life.
I have always had a dad who loved me more than anything on this earth. He would do anything and everything for me. My dad worked hard to be a provider and to keep his family content with everything they needed. My mom on the other hand was consumed by alcohol and my brother by drugs. So with a dad who was never home from working, a mom - always drunk, and a brother who was always high… I started to party and drink at a very early age. I even started having sex. Eventually I got pregnant at the age of 16 and miscarried within a month of finding out. Only 4 months later I got pregnant again. I celebrated my 17th birthday with this tiny baby growing inside of me. But pregnancy didn’t stop me from going out and enjoying myself. I still went to the club with my friends up until I was about 6 months pregnant. Looking back, I really regret doing that. Even after having my daughter I still wanted to party and have a good time. I don’t really know what happened to make me stop so suddenly. Maybe it was when I met my first real “boyfriend” after high school. We had a lot of good times and a lot of bad like any other relationship. After 4 years of a steady relationship we had a son together. He was a good man and took the role of a father to my daughter when she was just one. Her father was in and out of prison because of drugs and we didn’t communicate at all. He had his life and I had mine. He was with me through college and I landed a really good job later at an insurance company after graduation. Then we got an apartment together shortly afterwards. Well, that didn’t last long at all. Within a couple of months we parted ways and he moved out. We started fighting more and more and we were just in way over our heads. We were both young and trying to raise a family. It was a life that we really weren’t ready for. I started partying a lot more. I thought I was having the time of my life. I had a great job, a nice apartment, I was single and I didn’t have a worry in the world or so I thought. Little did I know, at the time, that partying would lead me down a road I never intended and bring with it, not happiness, but pain.
I remember meeting him like it was yesterday. I was walking out of a bar at closing time. There are about 50 people outside all walking to their cars. I was with a couple friends and we are talking to people around us trying to find out where we could go afterwards. Then I heard, “Monica!” I turned around to see a guy I had briefly met at an old job and had seen around before from time to time. As he approached me that night, I knew my ex didn’t like him because of problems they had in the past. I really didn’t find him attractive but I knew it would kill my ex to see me with him. So I decided I would exchange numbers with him and later that night I ended up at a house party with him. We drank and talked a lot. He seemed really nice and interested in me. Friends warned me he hit his girlfriends in the past. But not this guy. It couldn’t be true because he was so nice and sweet to me. It took about a month for the first altercation to happen. Sure enough, he pushed me. I thought to myself that wasn’t so bad I had been pushed before. I can forgive him, he was drunk anyways. Pushing eventually turned into slapping, choking, punching, kicking and even dragging me by my hair.
I eventually started doing drugs with him. I had smoked marijuana and did cocaine. I never had any money because I was buying beer and drugs what seemed like every other day. I started missing work because I was so tired from partying all night. I couldn’t pay my rent half of the time because I spent all my money on my habit. I never had my kids because I let the drugs and alcohol come first. Everything that I had worked so hard for was spiraling down and I was the only one who couldn’t see it. I left him a couple of times but always ended up back with him. He convinced me that nobody would ever want me again and that I wasn’t worthy.
Christmas Eve 2012 I was about to start making Christmas dinner. The kids had opened their presents earlier that day and he had left for work on the night shift. As I started to take things out of the refrigerator, I looked at the Christmas tree in the living room, and it didn’t make me feel the joy it once had. I wasn’t happy but I just didn’t know how to get out. I couldn’t continue to live this life anymore. I hated who I had become, I had lost friends and I rarely saw my family. Sometimes I even felt like ending my life because I felt like it was the only way I could escape him. After all the mental and physical abuse, after all the times he stole my car and my credit card, after all the times he hit me in front of the kids, and after all the times he cheated on me… I finally had enough. I built up the courage and picked up the phone… I didn’t have a plan to what I would say or who I would call. The next thing I know I hear my daddy’s ever so comforting voice say, “Hello?” I held my breath for a brief second and choked back my tears as I whispered, “Daddy I want to come home.” Without any hesitation without any questions, my daddy’s only response was, “Come home.”
I was home for a day or two, when I decided to go to a friend’s house. I still had all of my clothes packed in the back seat of my car. I had that feeling (the one that tells you not to do something, but I ignored it) I told myself I just wanted to get out of the house for a bit. I don’t know how he found out where I was but the last thing I remember was running to a back room because he was walking inside of her house and he was headed straight for me. He quickly followed me into the room and before I knew it… I was picking myself up from the ground, barely able to see from the blood that was dripping down my face. I wasn’t sure where I was hit or where the blood was coming from, but I knew I had to get out of there fast! He had friends holding him back and I was hiding behind my friend. I could see the fire in his eyes and the smoke from his ears, furious because I had left him without any notice. But by the grace of God, I was able to lock myself in the bathroom. I didn’t have a phone or any way to get out of the apartment. The only thing I could do was pray. I wasn’t even sure how to pray or if God would even listen to me but I took a step of faith and I asked God to help me keep the door closed as he tried to knock it down. I had my back against the door and my hand on the sink as my only leverage. I could feel the door bending inward as he was pushing on it with his weight. I could feel the pounding on my back as he tried to get in the bathroom, the only thing between him and I was a 2 inch wooden door… or so I thought. Little did I know God was there with me, his hand was behind me the entire time keeping him from getting to me. Eventually someone slid my phone under the door and I was able to call 9-1-1.
As I sat in the hospital bed with a police guarding the door, all I could think of were my kids and what they would say when they saw my face. My best friend picked me up from the hospital and took me home. I didn’t want to tell my dad but I had to before he came home. I think that was one of the hardest things I ever had to do. I begged my dad to not retaliate and take matters into his own hands. So he made a simple phone call, “If your son comes to my house or tries to see my daughter, I will kill him.” I never have seen the hurt in my daddy’s eyes when he looked at my face in pure heartbreak. I didn’t want to see my kids but the reality was I couldn’t hide from them. I explained everything to them and assured them it would never happen again. After that day, I never hid anything from my kids and I always told them the truth. Even though I would never wish this on anyone, I do think that God has brought good in spite of all the bad things and that we are a strong family.
A year passed and I can’t say he didn’t try to contact me but I finally changed my number and moved on from the dark depression I was in. After seeing my mom in the hospital for pneumonia, H1N1 and Influenza, and nearly losing her life, losing a very dear friend and ex-boyfriend in a car accident, and dropping out of college from being ill… I decided to let go and give this “God” a shot. Apparently trying it my way hasn’t worked so what do I have to lose? I literally fell to my knees in my closet one day and raised my hands in complete surrender to God. Let me tell you my life has not been the same since that day.
I remember back when I was 12 years old, going to summer camp but not really going for the purpose of learning about God. I wanted to get away from home and maybe meet some new people. Plus a guy from church that I had a crush on would be there. Each day we had different activities but nothing that could prepare me for the last night of camp. I remember after an evening service, they did an altar call for anyone who was troubled and needed prayer. I didn’t know what an altar call was then or if I should even go. Nobody around me was getting up… and then it happened. I was walking down the long path to salvation. I didn’t know it at the time and I wasn’t even sure how I stood up and started walking. Looking back, it could only be the Holy Spirit who led me to give my life to Christ that night. A woman approached me shortly after I got to the front of the altar and asked how she could pray for me. I started telling her about my parents and my brother and how I was new to all of this. Then I told her how I was already into drinking and having sex… She started to cry as she grabbed me and held me close to her. I didn’t even know her but I felt comfort in her arms as she started to pray over me… tears started falling down my cheek. I know now that even though I didn’t intend on going for that purpose, God knew and He had a plan. My choices changed for a short while after that night. I stopped my bad behavior for a little while as I tried to spread the word of God at school. I soon realized that my peers rejected everything I stood for so I turned away from God and went back to my rebellious ways. I was 26 years old in my closet when I met the Lord, once again, face-to-face. He had been with me all along. It was I who had turned my back. But there He was, waiting to embrace me in His arms and love me as only our Heavenly Father can.
Before that day, I had leaned on God sort of as a safety net, what’s the worst that could happen? Better safe than sorry right? Well let me tell you… it was never that simple because after that day in my closet… God rocked my world! I called a woman who never gave up on me and was probably praying for me since the day she met me. She first took me to church when I was about 11 but I fell out shortly after my church camp experience. She always invited me to church but I always declined her offer. So it was time to call her and ask if I could attend church with her. I can’t tell you how happy she was to hear that I wanted to go to church with her. That woman literally made a huge difference in my life since the day I met her because she never gave up on me. I remember one day when I was sick she came to my apartment to bring me soup and Gatorade along with my very first Bible. I still use and cherish that Bible to this day. She went home to be with the lord a little over a year ago from cancer. But the impact she made on me will never be forgotten.
This was the turning point in my life. From that point on I was determined to follow the Lord. I didn't get it perfect but I desired to walk with the Lord - and not on my own. My next relationship was not perfect but I did seek to find someone who loved the Lord and who didn't abuse me. Although that relationship didn't last as I wish it would have, I've learned many things. First and foremost, we don't gain happiness through people. Girls, let me tell you. There is only one man who can complete you. That is Jesus Christ. He never leaves us and he loves us because He is merciful, kind and perfect. He loves us right where we are but he doesn't want us to stay there. He takes us by the hand and helps lead us to a better place -the life he planned for us - walking according to His will, cleansed by His Word, made whole by His sacrifice on the cross. He is our only All and All.
It hasn't always been easy. I have had to cling to that truth. As I told you in the beginning, this year, my life took a turn for the worst when my daughter was violated. After that day, I felt like I lost myself. While helping my daughter heal through counseling and depression, I forgot to take care of myself. I eventually had to seek help for depression and anxiety, which led me to start seeing a counselor and taking daily medication. I was so caught up in my own world and my own feelings I neglected the people I loved. I didn’t know how to juggle a hurting 12 year old, a 9 year old son, my job, life. I even started to slip away from God. But He held me within His hand, never letting me go. He loved me on my best days and He loved me on my worst. He loved me not because of who I was. He loved me because of who He is. And that, is the greatest love of all.
Today, 9 months after tragedy struck, we are making it. My daughter has completed her counseling and although the road ahead is long, I know God is walking along her side every day. She still has nightmares on her bad days but she will find healing and forgiveness just as I have. This will be a part of her testimony to share some day with another person who may need to hear it. What the enemy meant for bad, God always turns into good. God hasn’t abandoned us and God has never left our side through it all. God was with me in the beginning and carried me during some pretty ugly situations. There were times that I started to question my purpose and wonder why God didn't give up on me but it’s because I am worthy - not because of anything I have done but because of the blood of Christ. Truly, by His stripes we are healed. Every day that I open my eyes, I know that He isn’t finished with me yet. What the enemy tried to use for bad, God turned around and used for good. My daughter and I are closer than we have ever been. All the days I missed out on when she was little are not hanging over me in regret but I can embrace our time together today. My daughter confides in me and talks to me more and more. Both of my kid's fathers and I have begun to work together to co-parent our kids. My son's dad has even become a follower of Christ. I know I may not be where I want to be but I am not where I was.
This leads me to remind you, dear reader, to never forget who God calls you. After I forgave the man who violated me, I closed my eyes and began to pray with my pastor. God showed me a beautiful white flower blooming. As I looked into it further, I found a picture online that was identical to the picture God gave me. When I read the description of the picture it said, “Wonderful Beautiful Blooming” and that is the answer to “How does God see me?” I never knew how God saw me because I was always afraid to ask Him. I thought of myself as a disappointment and a failure. Then I realized those are lies of the enemy. Even in my lowest and darkest moments I remember who God says I am and I will never forget the words he has put in my heart… Wonderful Beautiful Blooming