Monday, July 11, 2016

Break The Silence

Sorry for the delay, but this mama's been on vacation with my family!
But I'm back and have so much to share with you all.

As promised, though, I'm starting off with a few of the stories from the Women's Conference I attended a few weeks ago, Women of Purpose - Freedom in Truth.

I have shared some of Danielle's story on here before, but this will give you a much better understanding of who she is, what she has overcome, and how God is using her to help others.

I want to preface this by saying the song Ocean's (where my feet fail) was played prior to her speaking.  You can hear that song HERE!

Good morning everyone, my name is Danielle.  It took a lot of prayers, tears, and fighting thru fear to get here but I’m here today because I’m supposed to be here.
My devotion this morning, so relates to part of this speech...that I had to add it in to share…

(“I am speaking to you more often than you realize” Are you listening? Really listening? I’m speaking to you more often than you realize. Those faint impressions, those deep knowings, those times scriptures seem to jump off the page, those small details of nature that catch your eye. I am speaking to you in and through many things. I am hoping you’ll speak back to My heart. I desire a holy conversation with you. Start watching. Start listening. Start waiting. Start observing. Start discerning. You’ll soon become more sensitive to My ways of communicating.)  

Ephesians 2:10- For we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago.

The song Oceans is where I feel I am right now. I am listening to where the spirit is leading me, I’m trusting without borders. Where he wants me to go, I’m going. He has made my faith stronger and has taken me deeper than my feet would have ever wondered! It’s pretty funny when you say you would never do something, but then you say okay God I’m committed to go where you want me to go,and things change. Well anyone who knows me would tell you I wouldn’t be standing up here today if it were on my own will. I don’t like to speak in front of a lot of people, I’m a lot more comfortable in small groups of people, and fear can definitely kick into high gear when I’m not comfortable.  

To be honest we have a really good life and sometimes being comfortable with what you have or are already doing is much easier than doing things you wouldn’t normally do. For me it wasn’t enough… I know what it feels like to be spirit lead now and have seen what He has done for our life and I am forever grateful. My life is committed to where He wants me to go. I may stumble and fail but as always He will pick me back up and gets me back on track.  He has already done that for me time and time again. It also means opening all up, letting walls down, taking whatever has been broken in me and letting go. If I am wanting to go where He wants me to go I’m going to have to share my story. I don’t even need to know the reason but if it helps just one person, even if that person is me, it’s worth it.

 Well, here I am and I’m still amazed at all the things He has been putting in my life. I’m here to share my story and the things that have gotten me here.

Life is not always easy…I grew up here in Pocomoke City, born and raised.  We didn’t grow up going to church, maybe a few weekends here and there or with a friend  - that was about it.  At about 9 my parents divorced and my sister and I lived with my mother and we spent every other weekend at my dad’s. It was tough not really understanding life at that age, not understanding why my parents weren’t together, only being with one parent most of the time, and sharing holidays. My parents didn’t get along at that time so there wasn’t much talk, we just went where we were told to go. I don’t remember a lot of my younger childhood; for me it was more like pieces of memories. There are moments and memories that were good and some that weren’t good at all.  

My step dad has been a part of our life for as long as I can remember. He is a good man who was there for our family, he helped raise us and we love him like a dad. But, like most of us, he was not perfect - he also was an alcoholic. Most of the time things were good, but there were times when the fights would come and the arguing would start ... that became pretty scary to witness.  I have sat in front of my mother while the yelling was going on, I had been kicked out of the house where I had to run to the neighbor for help, and we have all had to leave the house just to get away from it. As you can imagine, this would also cause more problems between my mom and dad and sometimes even our visits would not happen because there would be more fighting. My mom had had enough at some point and he was told he couldn’t come back to the house unless he stopped drinking altogether. The drinking did stop and he is still a part of our life today. Things changed a lot and He knows Jesus and now is a pastor at two churches. Our parents get along now and we are able to spend holidays all together. It’s just another blessing to see the growth and changes from all those years. 

Life is good…..but life can still be hard. We have considered ourselves Christians for a long time. We have attended church for the last 17 years, we love helping people, we love God, we believe what Gods Word says. But I didn’t feel like we were living life the way God wanted us to in several areas of our life. Things were changing, we were changing, friendships were changing, life was changing.  

It was about five years ago we sat down and decided we wanted to make changes in our life. We were being convicted of things that we felt like needed to change, some things just didn’t feel right anymore. I was reading Gods word more and if I wasn’t sure about something I would look up what the Bible had to say about it. That’s all it took for me to know we needed to make some changes not only for us but for our kids. We needed to not just tell our kids what Gods Word said we had to show them what following Gods Word looked like and I wanted to live my life that way. I believed what the Bible says, not just parts of the Bible that suited my life. I started studying the Bible and getting all the information on whatever particular area I would be struggling with at that time.  I wanted my kids to know what Gods Word says so they will have it in them, so they know there is a right and wrong that everything they witness and see in this world is not okay. Will they stumble?  Most likely yes.  Will they makes mistakes?  Absolutely.  Will they live their life just the way I hope?  Probably not….but if they know Gods Words and they see what God is doing in our life now, I pray their chances of living a better life at an earlier age than I did will be better.
Reading the Bible, reading my devotional’s every day has really helped me know God in a different way. I didn’t always get it. Sure I knew God was there, I could sense Gods presence during certain times, but I just didn’t hear Him the way I would hear other people say they could. I wanted that...I wanted to know my God more. 

Making that commitment to ourselves and God began a lot of changes that we didn’t quite expect. I found that sometimes being a Christian is harder than not. Sometimes it’s seems easier to just do whatever feels good,  It’s easy to get caught up in life and let things slide a little bit here and there. And before you know it, your right back to where you didn’t want to be and things that are happening really don’t make you happy like you once thought.
We weren’t doing the same things anymore and so the meant we were alone a lot. We spent a lot more time together as a family and looking back that was one of the best parts. They don’t stop growing and now I want to be a part of as much as their life as I can be. In that time we began to read the Bible more than we ever had and praying and relying on God’s word. At times I struggled hard, I am human, being lonely is hard, it's heart breaking watching everyone you were once close to go on without you being a part of it. You doubt yourself and your choices, you make mistakes, you try to fix things that can’t be fixed, you mess up and get back up again. 

Then a few months later, the end of January, my father was hospitalized. Two days later, around my birthday, he had surgery and was diagnosed with stage 4 colon cancer that had spread to his liver. That was pretty terrifying in itself, the worst thoughts possible kept going thru my head. My own research on the odds of beating this cancer were not good. I was already struggling emotionally and this took my emotions to a whole new level. After they did surgery on him he had complications. They had to put tubes in him to drain things, feeding tube to feed him, and other things that kept him in there for several weeks. After he got out and starting getting his treatments it began to take its toll on him. He ended up losing his job, no insurance, and not old enough to retire. More stress and trying to figure it all out. Fighting back the sadness and fighting to hold on to the faith that somehow some way God was going to work this all out. My dad was tough and he was handling the chemo fairly well but we knew it was going to be along journey. We just took one day at a time.
It’s 5 years and 5 months later and my dad is still here with us and hanging on strong. He has done chemo most of these five years and has just finished up radiation. We have had some other hospital times and struggles but he has gotten thru them. I don’t know how long my dad will be with us but he has fought hard to still be here and we have become closer from it. I know he has Jesus in his heart and he’s going to be okay.

Then two years later that February, my husband went to work and came home to tell me he had been let go from his job. Just like that - 18 years at one place and he was let go. It didn’t matter how well his store numbers were, or how many stores he had been sent to too fix, or how many plaques he had that said he was a top store manager. They handed him his papers and said they no longer needed him.  Then a whole other set of worries came, more sadness, how are we going to pay our bills, we have no insurance with my job, how do you tell your kids all that’s going on and what has to happen to make things work all while trying to keep it together, and when you can’t keep it together telling them you are trusting God is going to work it all out it’s going to be hard, at times we are sad, and we are scared. You don’t know how or when or what all has to happen but it will be okay.  We were very honest with our kids.  Our lives had to change a lot to make it work.  He put in applications everywhere and only received two calls, both places offering him less than half of what he use to make, and awful hours. Lord how are we going to do this?!  We went thru every bill we had and started cutting. No more direct tv, no more date nights, movie nights, we got rid of some life insurance. We cut until we were at a place where we could make it work. 
God is always faithful! It’s on his time and maybe not the way we would always like but he helps us thru whatever it is always. We just need to stay faithful to him. About 7 months later Jeff was rehired at Food Lion and life was looking up again. It has been a struggle for sure. But the one constant has been my God. He has guided us and helped us get thru those struggles and we are better than we ever were before. 

And once more our faith grew stronger.

When I went to the women's conference in April, I kept being pulled to take this class that I really didn't want to go to. The class was human trafficking; it is something that it is not easy to hear about, watch, or a place that I personally just didn't want to go. I knew then that I was supposed to go to that session but I also knew that it was going to take me to a place I didn't want to go. I knew in my gut that day that this was the beginning of something. That Sunday after the conference I went up front to pray with someone and as I was walking back I felt that pull to go back up. So I grab Tammy and Kim and I asked them to wait, I needed to go back up, to please come back up with me. I just can’t describe the feeling but I knew I had to have prayers. Something was happening inside me that I still can’t describe. I wanted to be all in and I knew what that meant. I prayed and cried and just asked for guidance. I wanted to be open to do whatever is was that He wanted me to do no matter what it was.

He made it clear that I had to completely let go of my past mistakes, my past hurts, and I had to live in the here and now so I could heal from it all before I could go where He wanted me to go. 

When I was about 11 I met a family with three small kids at a picnic. She was a stay at home mom that had her hands full. I was around kids all the time since my mom had a daycare and would babysit on the side. At the end of that day she asked if I would be interested in helping babysit the kids and help with the house work. She couldn’t pay a lot but could really use the help. The kids were great and I liked the idea of making money and to be honest as a kid I’d rather be anywhere than to stay at home so I said sure. I ended up helping her a lot that summer and she became pregnant with her 4th child so I would help her out on the weekends once school got back in. I actually enjoyed being away from my own house and the family treated me like their family. You see, our family wasn’t a close family. I knew they loved me but they didn’t really express or show love. As long as I got good grades, and didn’t get in trouble, there wasn’t a lot of talking. After some time it became more like just going to hang out with the family for the weekend - they would still pay me, but they also allowed me to do whatever I wanted. She actually became more like an older sister and we talked and hung out more than anything. I don’t know why or even
how it started, but I was told they didn’t mind if I wanted to smoke cigarettes, to help myself to theirs. Then I was offered pot to smoke with them and then came the alcohol. I couldn’t begin to tell you how many weekends that I pretty much was wasted. I don’t know why I did it, I can guess and say the sadness from my parent’s divorce, the drinking that I saw at my own home, just to not have to think about life at that moment or just being a kid. I really don’t know the answers, I just did it. 

Then things really changed.
The father molested me. 

I would be high and or drunk or both I could hardly function. Things were so out of control in my head and I would be so hung over the next day I think I convinced myself it wasn’t real. It couldn’t be, he never touched me that way when I was clear headed. Was it real or was I dreaming??? Surely if it was real the wife would notice something, I would notice something during the daytime. This went on for a while. Eventually l just wouldn’t drink anymore and I began to make excuses to not go there anymore until I just walked away completely. 

He never physically hurt me but mentally what he did really messed with my head.

I knew how it made me feel but how could I tell anyone about something that makes you feel so dirty and shameful. Our family wasn’t a family that talked about anything sexual or a lot about anything really. Instead I took the blame that I let it happen, and I would take that dirty, shameful secret to the grave with me and nobody had to know.

Then it happened.

A year or so later I was called to court because he was arrested for sexually abusing his niece, and because I had been in their life, I needed to be questioned. 

Terrified, embarrassed, ashamed...
What would kids at school think?
What would my family think? 
Will people blame me?

So many things went thru my mind.  

So I lied.
The one thing that I have a huge problem with till this day is lying.
And I did just that. 

I said he had never done anything to me. I had to go to court in case they wanted to put me on the stand but I never was asked to. He ended up going to jail that day. Relived that I didn’t have to say anything and he still went to jail, I thought he got what he deserved, but it made it all that much more real. It really did happen, and not just to me. 

It’s over now and he’s been punished.  
I didn't have to say anything...or so I thought.

Things like that don’t just go away. 
It’s always there - you see something, you hear a story - it affects you. 

I did eventually tell my husband.  I really had to because sometimes I would react to things or something would emotionally affect me that he just didn’t understand why or what was going on in my head. Especially when we started having kids and I would hear something or freak out about things that he thought I was over reacting to. Talk about fears…how do you tell something like that to someone and expect them not to think differently of you. 

You trust.

And afterwards, he loved me just the same.  

Years went by.  In 2007, I read that the lady I once babysat for was brutally murdered. She was taken in to the woods where she was going to trade sex for money and drugs and was killed. Again, the memories of it all came back. She had four children that I knew nothing about anymore or even where they were. Then I saw the article her one daughter had written up about the incident. She didn’t live around here so I reached out to her by email. I wanted to tell her I had heard about her mother and I was so sorry to hear what had happened. That I use to babysit for them and I had some pictures of her and her siblings if she wanted them I would send them to her. One of the houses they lived in burned down so I knew a lot of their memories were lost. It was then thru emails that she started asking questions and informed me that her dad had sexually abused her and her sister as well and that I must have been one of the lucky ones if he had not done it to me.
The thoughts that ran in my head were overwhelming. I wanted to ask her questions, like when it happened to her, was it before or after he was sent to jail, was she okay but I couldn’t. The shame, regret, pain for her and fear struck me all over again. I didn’t have words to say back. I sent the pictures and ended the email with how sorry I was. 

As long as it has been, as many times as I have given it to God, I’ve asked for forgiveness, I’ve laid it at the cross. I’ve thanked God that is wasn’t worse than it was. There were things that I would see or hear that would upset me all over again, or would trigger thoughts that would take me back. It wasn’t till recently that I realized I still carried guilt. What he did was not okay but that wasn’t what kept bothering me. It was my guilt of not telling the truth, the guilt that maybe if I had testified against him he would have been in jail longer than what he was, the guilt for not speaking up again when she said he had done it to her. For my mistake, for my lie that maybe could have helped the other ones he did it to.  

I hadn’t forgiven myself.

The Truth is my Father God has forgiven me, He sent His Son to pay for my sins.  I have asked for forgiveness. I do know that it was not my fault. I didn’t ask for it to happen and I was a child taken advantage of. I can’t change the past, but now maybe I can help others.

So that is just what I’m going to do. 

Help others and go where He wants me to go. He certainly made it clear that I was to speak at this conference and He wants me to get involved with the Human Trafficking. 

I had honestly never heard about it being here in the US, in our own state. 
It’s real, it’s here, and it’s scary. 
My children’s ages are the prime ages it’s happening to. 
After first hearing the speaker that day on Human Trafficking I saw it every day. I started looking things up to get more information but then I saw a thing on the news that they were shutting down a website known to be used for human trafficking.  I saw posts on face book about it from Natalie Grant helping with it, Ashley Judd named ambassador for Polaris project for human trafficking, the baseball player Adam LaRoche was helping rescue sex slaves by going undercover, and just recently 9 people in Ocean City, Maryland were arrested for human trafficking and prostitution investigation. 

Here are some facts I’ve learned about it…
The average age of a young woman being trafficked is 12–14 years old.
There are an estimated 27 million slaves in the world today. That’s the highest recorded number of slaves in history!
Human trafficking has been identified as the largest human rights violation in the history of mankind
Human trafficking is the second largest criminal enterprise in the world, after drug smuggling and arms dealing.
Drug dealers are going into trafficking because for one they can make just as much money and if they get caught sex trafficking its misdemeanor, whereas drug dealing is a felony.
The United States is one of the top three destination points for trafficked victims. California, New York, Texas and Nevada are the top destination states within the country.
Unfortunately there isn't a lot of help for these women a lot of them go to jail for prostitution, stealing etc. because human trafficking is hard to prove and our laws need to be changed. The fear they have in them stops them for testifying against the person doing this to them so they go to jail instead.
They are getting kids from the internet; they find kids who aren’t happy at home and make promises to give them a better life. 

There have been kids who were drugged and just taken. 
It’s happening at truck stops, the super bowls, some family members are doing it to their own kids.
It was everywhere I looked. 

Not only that, the scriptures and the quotes that kept coming up was amazing. I wanted to hear from God more and know that’s where I was supposed to go and He was showing me everywhere. 

Isaiah 41:13-For I hold you by your right hand- I, the Lord your God. And I say to you, Don’t be afraid. I am here to help you.

Quote from Joyce Meyers- She asked God how can you stand to see all that goes on in the world and do nothing? The response was “I work through people, I am waiting for my people to rise up and do something.”

Matthew 25:35-36- Trust God to show you how you can meet the practical needs of His people so they can be open to receiving his Love.

If you can only relieve someone’s pain one time for 1 hour, feed one person for one day, help one person get back on their feet…is it still worth doing… I knew the answer to that one from our experience in Guatemala… it is worth it!

Deuteronomy 31-6- Be strong, courageous, and firm; fear not nor be in terror before them, for it is the Lord your God who goes with you; He will not fail you or forsake you.

Trust in Him- Has God planted an idea or a desire in your heart to help others in a specific way? Trust that whatever you can do is worth doing. Don’t let the magnitude of the problem overwhelm you. God with show you what you can do- trust Him when He says it makes a difference. 

Getting involved with the human trafficking made me feel very overwhelmed made me question how I could help.  What can we do? We can care, we can inform, we can pray, and we can take action. We can support ministries and organizations that are helping others.
As scary as all of this has been, speaking at this conference, and getting involved with human trafficking, I finally got it. I understood how much He talks to us in so many ways if we are willing to listen… and I loved it. 

I was committed to this and I was committed to help with human trafficking. Now I had to find out how and where I could help. I couldn’t find anything around here that was established or that dealt with human trafficking. That is when I contacted the speaker from the women’s conference who works with Samaritan Women’s House in Baltimore.  They are doing the best they can do to help these women get back on their feet. It’s a long term residential and therapeutic program for victims of human trafficking. The program is 2 or more years investing in the women academically, vocationally, spiritually, socially, and in self care. The problem is there is no money or grants to help with human trafficking so they rely on donations and help from volunteers. 

I am happy to say that with a lot of praying, people willing to help, and Gods help - I have been able to collect donations and supplies for them. I have a team of 15 going with me in July to help work at the house with their maintenance needs for the day. I also have their prayer banner that I am still in need of prayer leaves to be filled out. I have them with me today if you would like to fill one out. At this time they have 10 women and they have collected the leaves as they come and want to keep collecting them to make a collage for them as a reminder that there are people out there that care. My goal for now is to be involved with helping them whenever I can and to keep getting educated on what can be done, where we can make a change, how we can help here right where we live.

The Bayside movement is something we like to say at our church. I looked up what movement meant.  The definition that struck me was a series of actions and events taking place over a period of time and working to foster principal or policy or an organized effort by supporters of a common goal. 

That’s what we pray for, that’s what we feel is happening with all these great things going on.

I just want to encourage you if you aren’t plugged into anything already and something in your heart is pulling you in a direction where you want to help. Pray about it, listen to where your heart is telling you to go. It will take you places you never expected. It is definitely taking me out of my comfort zone and pulled me away out of my box. I am choosing to go where God is taking me and it has been scary, I even thought no at first, I've cried, but with the support of friends and prayers, I choose to Trust Him. Together we can make a difference. I asked for your prayers, your support, and your help to make these things happen. 

The change in us starts with us. We have to examine ourselves and ask God to show us what we need to change about ourselves first. Becoming the Christian I am today didn’t happen all at once. It definitely was a process to get to where I am today. I pray that I stay on track and continue to grow and continue to change. If we are to become more like Christ then our lives can’t stay the same they should be forever changing. I know how hard it is to trust, to be hurt, to be disappointed, to put up wall, and to have fear…but I also have learned that when we trust God he will pull me thru it, whatever it is. I tend to love hard to the ones that I feel close to but I also put up walls fast when I’m hurt. I have also learned that you can’t keep walls up thinking you're protecting yourself from hurt, because in the end, you aren’t just keeping things out - your keeping some other great things from coming in your life. Lean on God, read his words, and pray about everything. Then listen and wait for answers. I know how my life was before I allowed Christ in and I know how it is with him. 

I will take now any day. 

This is my life now and it is my beautiful life. My prayer for all of you is to let down those walls, open up your hearts, let go of those fears, and begin healing. Build your relationship with God so he can fill your life with all your needs.

A picture of Danielle and her team from their first day helping at The Samaritan Women House! 

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