Wow, what an amazing day at Intentionally & Wonderfully Made 2015! I'm still processing my thoughts in response to God's abundant goodness that day, but in the meantime, my dear friend Alissa from Life Under Construction stopped by to share her #IWM2105 story.
Get a cup of coffee and draw near, her story may not be your story, but it gives such hope for every woman!
An Entirely Different Kind of Dream Speech
This weekend, Josiah, Destiny, and I are going to Raleigh to visit friends. On Saturday, she and I are going to a women's event in Princeton: Intentionally and Wonderfully Made 2015.I've met a couple of the main organizers/speakers for the event. They know Josiah and I are planning to start Seeking the Symphony (God's time, not ours), and they've also given us advice and direction for our church's new marriage ministry, Compass.I'm sure you know what's coming next - many times I've envisioned I'd be asked to speak at the event. In fact, I had to do an assignment for a class last year, and for it, I wrote a mock proposal asking them to allow me to speak. NOT happening.
Let me be clear, I'm aware these are just fantasies at this point. I feel God has called me to speak, but let's face it: they have an ACTUAL author speaking at this event. At this point, I'm a stay-at-home-mom who writes a blog...on occasion.
But...in the last few days I've thought to myself, What would you say if they DID ask you to speak? What do you have to say about being "Intentionally and Wonderfully Made?
And the rest of this post, my dear friends, is the result of that question. It's my fantasy speech, but it's also my heart and my testimony. (And it's long. Super long. Get a snack and be ready to hang out for a while).
Alissa's Intentionally & Wonderfully Made Fantasy Speech
When Sherry and Beverly called and asked me to speak at this event, I did what any professional author and speaker does when they're booked for an event: the happy dance in my living room. That's not what they do? Huh...maybe that's because I'm NOT a professional author and speaker.
So...after my very dignified end-zone-like celebration, I did the next non-professional thing: I screamed in panic. "What in the world am I going to talk about in front of these women?!"
I'm not a Bible scholar or Christian therapist. Heck, I'm a relatively new blogger and ministry leader. I'm just a woman!!
But then I realized, we're all just women. Each women in this room is weaving a tapestry, full of light dark, vivid and grim. We each have a story, struggles and victories, and God is present and active in each one of them. So, I'll just start with my story.
I'm a stay-at-home homeschooling mom of 5 beautiful children, ages 16, 12 (as of Sunday), 7, 1, and 3 months. The oldest three children are from my previous marriage. My husband, Josiah, and I have only been married for just over 2 1/2 years...and we've had two kids in that time. It's been a busy couple of years!!
I'm totally in love with my husband and kids, but I'm actually more grateful to say I'm in love with my Savior, Jesus.
I haven't always been able to say that.
I've known Jesus as long as I can remember...sort of. I asked him into my heart at a very young age, and I was 14 when I was baptized. But...for a long time I didn't understand how to have a relationship with him. I didn't understand that God had a plan for my life...or how to consult him regarding that plan.
I was always the bubbly girl...I still am. obviously. If you tied my hands behind my back I might not be able to talk, and I wear my heart on my sleeve...which is then ALWAYS faithfully communicated by my face. I can't control it. If I'm confused or happy or upset or just think you're crazy, you'll probably be able to tell...immediately.
I graduated from high school at 17 at the top of my class with a Presidential Scholarship to Christopher Newport University. I just knew I was going places...and I was...just the wrong places.
A month after graduation I met my ex-husband and the father of my first three children. He was a dreamer, a risk-taker, an artist. But like a lot of artists, he also had a very dark side.
He's a lot different now. People grow and they change. We were a toxic combination. That actually makes all of this harder to share. I feel like I'm slandering someone. However, no matter how hard I try, I can't remove this part from my story. It's my testimony, my life.
Abuse just isn't always what it is in movies. It doesn't always happen non-stop. It can start very gradually and be very sporadic. He could go a year without an incident and then...then they would start again. Something I did would set him off, and once again, the beast would raise its ugly head. Sometimes he would only yell. Sometimes he would get in my face. Sometimes it was Hell on Earth.
One time he choked me until I passed out and he thought he killed me. He was more scared than I was...and he didn't touch me for a long while after that.
Physical abuse is very ugly, but in my case, I'm thoroughly convinced the verbal abuse left the deepest scars. I was ugly and fat. My stomach was the most disgusting thing he'd ever seen, and no one would ever have me. I was worthless. I thought they were just words...and words can't really hurt you, right?
Through it all I smiled and laughed. I made friends just as easily as I always had. I went to bbq's and served on the PTA. I just didn't always disclose what went on behind closed doors. Some people knew, but most people had no clue. I left him multiple times, or I was the one that was left...but we always wanted to try to make it right.
Old habits die hard.
In September of 2007, we had a particularly ugly battle. The night ended with an arm I thought might be broken (it wasn't); a picture of my five year old on her knees, crying and begging her dad not to kill himself permanently seared into my memory; and the deeply held conviction that it was finally time for me to leave for good.
I secured a full-time job, and five months later the kids and I moved out.
As a small aside, I'm not here advocating divorce. Sherry and Beverly would string me up. However, after over a decade of abuse, adultery, and addictions, I made the only choice I thought I could make at the time. That doesn't make divorce NOT a sin. However, since then, I've asked God to forgive me for that sin, and He's chosen to bless me because of HIS grace and mercy.
It's part of my story.
A couple years after that horrible September night, I met my Josiah. He was and IS truly an answer to prayer: a partner, a lover, a best friend. It was he and his family who showed me how to really love Jesus, how to follow His plan for my life.
A lot of people have asked me how I broke the pattern. Many women who have been in unhealthy or abusive relationships continue to repeat the cycle.
I had to let go of the title "victim." What happened wasn't my fault, but in my situation, I continued to allow the behavior. I did that thinking I was doing what God wanted me to do, but I still did it. It was my decision to stay. I had a choice.
I had to realize that point in my life was part of my testimony, but it was not ME. I could choose to allow abuse and bad decisions to define me OR I could choose to be defined by who GOD says I am: HIS child, adopted through the blood of His son, Jesus Christ; loved and cherished, the masterpiece of an Almighty God.
We all have a choice to make.
Maybe you're here today and you've got a lot of dark in your tapestry, too.
Maybe things have happened in your life that you really have no control over: abuse, death, devastation.
Maybe you know where you're at, but it's been so long since you've seen the light that you've abandoned yourself to the dark. What are your names? Adulteress? Liar? Addict? Abuser?
I'm here today to tell you, you have a choice! You can choose to be defined by the things that have happened to you and the things you've done OR you can decide today to be defined by how God sees you, and - pay attention this is the important part - start acting like it.
Start acting like you believe what you say you believe.
If you believe the Bible is God's word, then you're saying you believe what's in it. God says you're loved. God says you're valued. God says He knows everything about you, from the beginning of time He knew you and knew His plan for your life. He knit you together in your mother's womb for a purpose! He knows everything about you from your best achievement to your darkest sin...and He still loves you and wants you!!
He wants YOU. He loves YOU.
If you don't believe God's word or you're not sure what you believe, you can make a different choice about that, too. And if you need to talk to someone about that, there are plenty of women here who are ready, willing, and able to help you and answer your questions. I'm one of them.
So, today, you have a choice to make. Are you going to let the dark threads of your life weave themselves into a portrait of hopelessness and devastation? OR, are you going to, with determination and intentionality, grab hold of your Savior and weave a beautiful portrait of a life lived in His presence - light complimented by dark, vivid colors made all the more beautiful alongside the black and gray?
It's your choice. Today's the day. What's it gonna be?
Stay tuned for photos, stories, and the videos from Intentionally & Wonderfully Made 2015 coming soon!
LOOKING FORWARD TO THE NEXT ART OF MARRIAGE! Join us January 16-17 at Garris Chapel UMC in Lagrange, NC!
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