MOMentous Monday is my way of reaching more of you in hopes that you would not feel alone. On MOMentous Mondays I turn the mic over to someone who has a story I think you need to hear. I only have so much to offer and so many life experiences to share. However, I am surrounded with beautiful women with amazing stories of trial, struggle, and redemption. I am determined to use this space to bless more women with the bravely shared stories of others.
This blog is not about me, it is for us.
Today, I am honored to share my space with a woman I highly admire. I fondly call her Nana and seek her for advice. She is a special part of my story as she did our premarital counseling (we were not for the faint of heart) and married us. She is a treasure and a great blessing.
Early this morning, while finishing up my Bible Study, I sensed the nudge to look up the meaning of the word “Phoenix”. I thought it was just another early morning distraction to my study plan. I continued in my lesson only to have the same impression wash over me again. This time it was too strong to ignore. I couldn’t have been more surprised as I began to digest the words. I knew the Phoenix was sort of a mythical bird but the when I began to read the actual meaning I was completely dumbfounded. Phoenix: “the thing or person that has been renewed or restored after suffering calamity or apparent annihilation.”
I’m currently involved in a Beth Moore Bible study, “Believing God”. Over the course of the study, one of the assignments was to divide our life into 5ths and to describe our difficulties, but more importantly, how we saw “God stops” through that particular season. Over the past weeks my mind and heart had been revisiting the second 5th of my life when my family had moved to Phoenix in the late 60’s. My father had accepted an Associate Pastor position at a large church. At that time I was a wide-eyed, naive 15 year old, ready for a new adventure. We moved into a parsonage next door to my sister and her husband and my precious nephew and newborn niece. Life was good, exciting and the adventure I was hoping for.
All was going well until the senior pastor asked me to categorize his library books in exchange for him making a missions pledge on my behalf. Because the parsonage was three doors from the church I was easy prey for a predator….even if it was the pastor. Over the course of the next 18 months I lived in fear and the threat that if I ever told that my father would be fired as well as my brother in law. He repeatedly told me that no one would believe me if I uttered a word.
Now I know I was a prime candidate for such a predator. I was a naïve, gawky, undeveloped young lady that didn’t know who I was and whose father never made me feel like a princess. It’s not that he set out to do that – he just never was intentional about telling me I was beautiful, or anyone special. But here was this man, a respected and charismatic pastor, telling me unthinkable things. He said I was beautiful and smart and all the things a 15 year old needed to hear. I fell into a well plotted pit.
The nightmare finally culminated because a young lady isn’t designed to keep these sorts of secrets. On Sunday I would listen to him eloquently preach and then throughout the week I was being stalked, sometimes under my window late at night. He would mysteriously show up where I was babysitting or working and I realized he was following me. I was living a nightmare and the story began to spill out. I told. I told my brother in law and sister, I told my parents and eventually, told the church board. Meetings lasting till midnight ensued with complete denial on the part of the pastor. What followed were lies, accusations and finally, just as he had threatened me, my parents were asked to leave the staff and state. Eventually my sister and her husband also had to leave their position.
In the 60’s people put these kinds of things under the rug and so did I. I internalized it all, carried the shame and much of the blame for years. I made decisions that altered the course of my life because I felt handled, damaged and shamed. That is, until my own precious daughter turned 15. An intense anger began to surge and the looming question…..how could anyone dare touch an innocent young girl such as my daughter, such as me.
I began to get some counseling and in time wrote a letter confronting him. I wrote, “You must be nearing the time when you stand before God and I’m giving you the opportunity to come clean, admit your sin and receive forgiveness. I need to hear the words from your mouth, “I did the things you accused me of”. Amazingly, I received a phone call from an elderly man, admitting his wrong and asking for forgiveness.
Still, life was difficult.
Eventually, more lies, accusations and late night board meetings occurred. My 19 year difficult marriage to an unfaithful husband ended in a very public and humiliating way. My four children, ages 16, 14 and 8 year old twins and I left our foreclosed home for higher ground. More difficulty followed but also some sweet blessings. I fell in love and married a man who became my “Boaz.” There were, however, seemingly insurmountable hurdles of blending two families.
More counseling followed and God began a healing process and the next 17 years were fruitful years of ministry. I began to realize God was using my story to bring health and healing to other individuals. Had I not been through my test there would be no testimony.
Now it is time for us to retire and where does God take us? A suburb of Phoenix. God amazingly arranged my husband and me to live in a cozy nook behind my daughter and her husband (who are the parents to 6 beautiful grandchildren). Across the park my oldest son, his wife and precious two granddaughters live. I’m also surrounded by a huge extended family that I’ve never had the privilege to live by.
So now it’s early in the morning and I sit with my coffee, Bible and study guide. The Lord empresses me to look up the definition of the word Phoenix. I have never considered a tattoo before now. In my future there may be a bird stamped somewhere on my body with his wings indicating full circle. This would serve as a constant reminder that I have risen from the ashes – the apparent annihilation was not a permanent condition.
God has restored, renewed and I am now able to help women realize they can also rise from their ashes and beauty will come!
Nana, Candace, thank you very much for sharing your story. Your beautiful example of redemption is exactly what I want my readers to receive each MOMentous Monday.
It was truly and an honor and privilege to host your story. I know many will be blessed.
I also need to thank you for showing an example of how to share the hard stuff, how to talk about it, and most importantly how to use it while still being tactful and honoring to God.
Thank you, thank you, thank you.
You know how much I love and adore you.
If any of you sweet readers out there have a story you’d be willing to share… I would love to have you.
Let’s continue to give pain a purpose by blessing people with our stories.
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