Wen I was growing up, my family sort of related to the “CEO” (Christmas and Easter Only) type. I knew about the church, and I knew there was such a thing as having a relationship with Jesus, but I never really knew the extent of it.
I got married when I was 19 in August of 2015 in a rush. I packed everything I owned in Florida into two suitcases and moved to Ohio where he was stationed. He was my high school sweetheart, and I swore up and down he was the one for me. Most of our relationship had been long distance, so when we finally moved in together, I started getting some glimpses of the person he was starting to become. He often let his anger get the best of him, breaking picture frames and throwing plates at something as small as not being able to find the right pair of socks.
In December of 2015, I asked him if I could go to Florida to visit my family and attend a funeral for my grandfather, and he started using the Bible and my religion against me. He would tell me things like the Bible says when a woman marries her husband, she is supposed to leave her family and become only his, and that if I still tried to see my family, I was betraying him.
After that, he told me that I was not to see my family or friends anymore, and would get upset if I even spoke to them too often. I still considered myself very young at that point, and I had not had a lot of experience up until then. I had seen my parents work through things growing up, so I had just assumed that our arguments and disagreements were the “speedbumps” you hit along the long road of marriage.
In January 2016, I found out I was 16 weeks pregnant with my daughter. I became extremely scared and worried because I knew the life I was living was not right to bring a child into. As soon as I got that call, I started thinking about everything that had happened in our marriage up to that point. I started thinking about the arguments that had turned violent. I started thinking about the one-bedroom apartment we lived in always being a mess due to him thinking I’m the one that needed to clean it, even though I was going to school full-time and working full-time at the time. I started thinking about not being able to have my family close because I knew my husband did not want me to see them anymore. When I told him the news, he told me things would start changing with us immediately, and I believed it.\
In June of 2016, a month before my daughter was due, we moved into our first house. It was an exciting time for both of us. My husband even talked about wanting to attend church with me, which was a huge step for him. However, the signs of physical and emotional abuse still came through in some ways. When my parents tried to help, he would get visibly upset and throw insults at me, telling me I would not be a fit mother and that I loved my family more than I loved him; when I was in pain from the pregnancy, he would leave me by myself and refused to help me. In August of 2016, my husband was taken to a Behavioral Health Center after he told his supervisor he was having suicidal thoughts. He was kept there for a month, unable to speak to our daughter or me. While he was there, he told me the rent for the house would come out automatically, but that the rest of the bills I would have to figure out on my own since he refused to give me his bank information. He also told me not to tell anyone in my family or his family what was going on. I was all by myself with a 3-month-old, and I had never been more emotionally and physically drained.
I confided in one of my longest and closest friends, who recommended I start praying every night. I honestly could not remember the last time I had ever done that, but I did not know where else to turn. Throughout the next week, I received a promotion, found an amazing babysitter for Willow, and got to see my husband come back home. After that, I started feeling myself grow more towards wanting to get back into the church and truly discover my relationship with God.
In January of 2017, my husband started to revert back onto his past cycle. His psychiatrist prescribed him medications to help with his depression and PTSD, but he completely stopped taking them completely. His doctor had warned him of the effects of quitting them suddenly instead of gradually, but he did not feel like anything would happen to him. One day, I had come home from a 6-hour shift to find our 6-month-old daughter in her swing in the same clothes she was in when I had left for work that morning. I stopped the swing immediately and pulled her out of it, only to notice her diaper was completely full and soaking through. I ran upstairs to find my husband still sleeping. I woke him up in a hurry and asked him if he had gone to check on her at all while I was working, and he told me he that he had been asleep the whole time I was at work. I started panicking, realizing that Willow had been there by herself for 6 hours. I started yelling at my husband for neglecting her after promising me he would wake up. To stop me from “causing a scene”, he pushed me against a wall and covered my mouth and nose so I couldn’t breathe or make a sound. After he let me go, he started making threats that Willow and I would be “better off without him” and that he was going to ultimately end his life. He began a fit of rage in throwing things at my daughter and me. Whenever I tried to leave with her, he grabbed onto us, while holding a gun to his head, and shouted that if he was going to do anything, he would make us watch. I finally got free from him and ran to my friend’s house, where she welcomed us with open arms.
Later that night, my husband started making the same threats. I went back to the house by myself to get things for my daughter and myself. While I was there, he locked me in my daughter’s room and put his hands on me again, this time around my neck. Luckily, my friend heard me banging on the door in the house and came running in, which made him let go of me. That night, he was taken back to a behavioral health center and my daughter and I got our tickets to go to Florida. He was placed on a no-contact order through the Air Force, and I was told I could either stay with my family in Florida, or return to Ohio and force my husband to stay in the dorms on base. During those times, I was more scared than I had ever been before. Never did I ever think anything like that would happen to me, though nobody does. The month I was in Florida, I started questioning everything. I did not understand how or why something like this would ever happen to someone like me. I have always tried to live my life seeing the best in every person and every situation, but in that moment, I started looking back and trying to find anything I could have done to deserve the last year and a half that I had been through. I kept asking Him why; I had been going to church again, praying to Him, reading my Bible. I started drastically losing my faith, because I did not understand how someone who is supposed to watch over us and protect us could let something like that happen to me. A couple months passed. I went back home and my husband and I started doing marriage counseling as demanded by his base commander. No matter what, though, my husband was never the same, and I could never see him in the same way. I started trusting him less and less with our daughter. I kept hearing people telling me I needed to leave, but, again, he kept telling me that it was “against our religion” if I did. I became trapped in a house with someone that constantly invalidated me and made me question my own self-worth as a wife, as a mother, and as a child of God. As the year went on, I started losing weight and following unhealthy habits. I tried desperately to fit the role my husband wanted me to of the housewife that cooked and cleaned in order to avoid conflict with him, but I also strived to work and finish school (against his wishes) so that I could have something for myself. The emotional abuse continued as I was constantly being told I would never amount to anything, that going to school was a waste of time and that nothing in the house belonged to me anyway. He started putting holes in the walls if something did not go his way, and dishes and cups would get broken if dinner was not made the correct way. Every now and then, he would have his good moods. Sometimes he would offer to take Willow to the zoo or park, or try to buy me expensive things to make up for things that had happened in the past. He would feign support for me to try and convince me that he was changing. One of my good friends invited me to come to church with her for their Christmas service in 2017. I had not been to church in almost a year, and had stopped reading my Bible and following my prayer routine. I had honestly all but completely given up on my faith, just because I could not figure out why God would “let something like that happen to me”. For the next couple months into 2018, I started going to church regularly again. For me, it became a place to see my friends there, and a place that Willow loved to go be with kids her age. I would worship and listen to the word, but I never felt as connected as I wanted to. I was still having issues at home, and it was always so hard for me to think about much of anything else. I never told my husband that I was going to church. Although he would often use the Bible against me, he completely stopped wanting to go to church, claiming that there were “no good ones” around the area and that he would rather practice on his own. It became a place of escape for me more than anything. Finally, in December of 2018, I made a decision for myself and for Willow. Things had gotten worse at home, to the point where I was no longer allowed to see my family and friends unless it was an emergency. My husband never helped pay for my daughter’s babysitter, though refused to keep her if I had to work and he was off. She started repeating the words that would come out of his mouth, which were often words of hate. I made a plan for us to leave March 4th, after I had graduated college and right before my birthday. I was terrified that he would catch on to my plan, but I knew that it was something I had to do. On March 3rd, 2019, I attended my last service at my church in Ohio. I had grown to love it, appreciating the messages and the people there. I was sitting with my friend, and I was full of anxiety. I knew that the day would be filled with goodbyes to the people that had helped me so much in Ohio, and that the following day would be one of the scariest days of my life. Pastor Greg started speaking, and he told us the message of the day would be about forgiveness. He started speaking about the importance of letting go of grudges, and forgiving people even if they did not ask for it. My mind started racing as I thought I had made a mistake. Maybe what my husband had done to my daughter and I was not so bad, and maybe all I needed to do was to pray for him. I was feeling a mix of anger and sorrow and uncertainty. As I was about to stand up and leave in the middle of service, I heard a hushed voice I hardly recognized tell me to stay. As soon as I put my purse back down, the pastor looked directly at me and said, “but it is also important to forgive yourself.” He started preaching about how there are bad people in the world, such as abusers. He said that people in those situations often start hating themselves for putting up with the things they have, and that they don’t want to get out of it because it feels like they are giving up. But he said that forgiveness works in the way that we need to forgive ourselves, as well, and that it is okay to let go of something or somebody that is causing you harm. It was at that moment I knew God was speaking directly to me. In an instant, I felt a closeness to him that I had never felt before. I felt a peace and calm wash over me, and I no longer felt scared or guilty for what was coming next. In late 2019, I began going to Radiant Church. I missed the community of going to church, and I wanted my daughter to have one to grow up in. On a random Sunday, on the way to the craft store, I decided Willow and I would go to check out the service at the church right across the street. As soon as I stepped in, I felt like I was home again. A couple of weeks later, Pastor Richard Crisco did a service called “God is Good”. In this, he spoke about the goodness of God, and how He works for the good of those who love Him. One of the things I took away most from this service was when he said that Jesus is not a genie that gives you what you want, but a God that gives you what you need. With this word, suddenly it felt like everything became clearer. God did not put me through the hard times to punish me, but to build me up. He knows my true potential because He created me for a purpose. It helped me to understand that there are no greener pastors without dark valleys; through my lows, He showed me how to use my voice and my choice, how to stand firm in my beliefs in Him and how He created me, and how to fight for myself. God will never put us through anything we cannot handle, and He was showing me that I am stronger through Him and with Him than I ever thought possible. It was that moment that I committed myself to Jesus. After service was over, I signed up for Baptism Sunday, and was baptized on December 8th. The journey here has not been an exceptionally good one. There were times I was not sure if I would be able to make it, and many times I had given up on myself and my faith. However, HE never gave up on me. He created me to be the person I am today, and my daughter and I are thriving in our new lives. She attends church with me every Sunday, and watching her grow in her relationship with the Lord has been such an amazing thing to see. God has a reason and a timing for everything. The verses that got me through the struggles were Psalm 23 and Ecclesiastes 3. He knew where I was going, the path He had laid out for me, even if I refused to see it. But in His own time, he brought me out of the darkness and helped build my strength. Last Monday, on the 26th of October, after a year and a half of being away from him and over a year from no contact from him, my divorce was finalized. The night before, I prayed the hardest I could and rallied with my Small Group that has brought me so much joy and such a sense of community. This season, He has taught me patience, kindness, and forgiveness, and that everything has its perfect timing. can share updates about business, trends, news, and more.