If you would have told me four years ago that I would be sitting next to my brother in worship, holding hands as we prayed to our Father, I would have laughed in your face.
If you would have said we would have lunch after worship together with our children, or spend the day swimming together, or just playing XBOX, I would have called you crazy.
But God knew. Even when I thought it was impossible, God knew that all things are possible. He knew I would be writing this, in awe of the place that I am. He knew that I would want to share this story with as many people as possible. And he knew that I would hope that it would help someone, give hope, show love.
Maybe some of you don't know my story. I honestly hope that's true. That means that more people are hearing this. So I'll start from the beginning, and hope I make it to the end.
When I was a child I was sexually molested by my brother. I am unsure of how long it went on, or even when it started. But it happened. And it changed my life. For many years I blocked it out, finding that to be the only way to function. I maintained a relationship with my brother, aware deep down that something was very wrong. I turned to drugs and alcohol to survive. I spent my teenage years in a fog, either drunk or high or both. But I still clung to God, waiting for the day I would escape, the day I would be free of him, the day I could truly begin to live.
When I was 19 I married the first man who asked. Turns out it was the best decision I've ever made. 6 weeks after we were married I got pregnant with our first child, our daughter Ali, who is now 8. At the sight of that little pink line, I stopped everything cold turkey. I vowed I would do whatever I had to do to protect her, and that included from myself.
Even though I was married and out of the house, safe in my world with my husband and our daughter, I still had frequent contact with my brother, and I was incapable of dealing with my past, so I pushed it away, forced it out of my mind. Until I couldn't anymore.
It started with a dream. I woke up in a sweat and I knew. I knew what had happened and that there was no hiding from it anymore. I spent four long years in a deep, dark depression. I was suicidal, I was self-destructive, I was lost. I could not function. I could barely get out of bed, most days I didn't. I just let life keep going. I told my parents and cut contact with my brother, and there was a lot of drama and anger and bad things that came from that. My parents tried to be as supportive as possible, but it was hard on us all. My marriage suffered because all of a sudden I could barely allow my husband to touch me. I didn't want to be anywhere near him. I slept curled up in a blanket on my side of the bed, terrified that if I moved it would wake him and he would reach out to me. My spiritual life died in my hands. I didn't even know how to pray anymore. I didn't know how to find God in that mess.
But God knew what I needed. He sent someone into my life, a new sister to have forever. She was molested as a child too. I had never spoken to someone else who had gone through what I had. I had no idea that there were other people out there like me. And because of her I survived. She stood by me when I was at my darkest. She ripped bottles of pills from my hands, hid every knife or razor in the house, and watched me like a hawk when my Eric couldn't be there to protect me from myself. And she was there when he just didn't understand anymore, when he threw his hands in the air and let tears fall from his face because he knew there was nothing he could do. I survived because neither of them gave up on me. Even when I wanted them to.
Slowly I started to heal. I went to therapy and started medication for Bi-Polar disorder and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. I started focusing at church. Slowly, I started to live again. I started laughing with my children. We went to the park and played in the fountain together. We watched movies in my bed and spilled popcorn everywhere. Eric and I found each other again, renewed our love, learned to love each other in a whole new way. But there was still something missing.
Family. My whole family. My brother's son, Anthony, my nephew who calls me mom, begged us last year to have Thanksgiving dinner together. I was reluctant. I didn't want to. We decided on neutral ground, having dinner at the church with several of the other families. We played games and laughed and had fun. And my brother sat across from me at dinner. And for the first time in four years, we spoke to each other. It was a tentative thing, like stepping out on a bridge that is missing boards and looks like it could fall apart at any moment. But I did it.We did it.
We spent more and more time together, never alone, but together. Somewhere along the way I realized that I had forgiven him. That I had learned to love him, and that I had my brother back. My God always knew I would, but this was something I believed with all of my heart was impossible.
But with God, all things are possible.
Today we are reconciled, but it is a whole new world. I'm learning to trust again, learning to fully love again. I'm trying to give all of myself now, instead of hiding it away. There are days that I feel like I'm making a mistake, that I shouldn't put myself in this vulnerable position again. There are days that I am crippled with nightmares and flashbacks. Sometimes I feel like a newborn babe, learning to walk, talk, think. I have to learn my limits, what I can handle and can't handle. There are times that we have to spend away from each other because it's too much for me. And he respects that. It's a new thing for us both, to learn to love again after so many years of hating each other. There are days that it feels like it isn't worth it.
But then I watch our children together in the pool and remember that it is worth it. It isn't easy, but in the end it'll be the best thing I've ever done for them, reconciling their family, showing Anthony (because he knows the situation) what true forgiveness is, that all things are possible, than anything can be forgiven. And it is worth it to know that our souls are safe in God's hands, that we're both forgiven for all of the things we've done, because neither of us are perfect. To know that God has forgiven us, and that reminds me that it's okay to forgive my brother, even though it's hard.
God saved me. He saved us both, and out of the ashes came beauty.
I'm a wife. I'm a mom. I'm a photographer. I'm a lover of Jesus. My house is a mess, my kids are dirty, we eat take out more often than not. My life is loud, busy and crazy. And that's okay with me.
This is Eric, the man you've been praying for. He's a paramedic. He quilts in his spare time. No, I couldn't make that up :) He has NASH (a form of liver disease, non-alcoholic) and diabetes, but those things don't define him. He's a man of God, an insanely wonderful husband, and the best daddy in the world.. Just ask these guys..
Our daughter Ali, she's 9. She's fiercely opinionated and strong willed. She's a Daddy's girl, but the umbilical cord hasn't but cut from me, either. She's a gymnast, and proud of it. She spends more time upside down or turning flips than she does walking. She's crazy smart, and absolutely sure of it. She is my insufferable little know it all.
Our son Dylan, 7. We lovingly refer to him as Chubs. Or Chubby. Or fat boy. Ahem. He is all boy, as you can see by his crazy wild energy. He has the highest pain tolerance of any child I have ever met. He plays soccer and does gymnastics, but truly he is a gamer, a nerd. He is an avid reader and loves to climb. Not to be outdone by his sister, he's a drama king, but to him, I'm the best mommy in the world.
I'm here to use my voice. So many people can't. In a world of darkness, I just want to help God's light to shine through. I pray that my words are His, and my love is His, as well. This is my journey through the darkness. To start are the beginning of the story, click here.