my story - part 3

Well if you are new to the block, you might want to read the two previous posts as they will help this one make much more sense.  A quick recap - I basically lived through every single girl's worst nightmare.  A strange man broke into my home, kidnapped me, and left me on the side of the road in the middle of the night.  What do you do with that?  Where does one go from there?

I must admit I had no idea - I was in shock.  I went to the only place I knew to go - God's Word.  Part of me died that night, and in those few days it felt like a huge part of me that I might never be able to get back. I felt like the reflection in the mirror was not my own.  But God in His resurrecting power began resurrecting my heart and my life.  I knew the truth - that God had rescued me, but I needed His Word to replace the images and fears that had invaded my mind.  I began in Psalms with David who knew his way around fearful situations and enemies.  I found truths such as Psalm 34, where it says, "the angle of the LORD encamps around those who fear Him, and rescues them. O taste and see that the LORD is good; how blessed is the man who takes refuge in Him!"  Psalm 37 offered comfort with "the LORD laughs at the wicked, for He sees his day is coming."  These words became the soothing balm for my soul.

His Word is precious to me, and it very much came alive for me in those days.  But God in His restoration began restoring my heart.  The balm worked so efficiently, I believe, because of the bandage that surrounded it keeping in that which heals and out that which only seeks to harm.  My bandage existed in the people God placed in my life who truly were the hands, feet, open arms, strong shoulders, and listening ears during those first several days and in months to come.  My family was incredibly strong and fierce in their determination to make me feel safe.  Candace Beaty Windham and Ryan Smith are pretty much the people you want in a crisis. She took care of so many things from calling my principal to arranging a rental car and taking me to get a new license and social security card.  Ryan began a prayer chain in my church in very early hours and arranged half of the church to pack and move the entirety of my house to storage that weekend.  From beginning to end, I believe it took approximately 3 hours. My parents were incredible prayer warriors and strong towers who simply asked questions when they wanted to know how I was really doing.  Shirley.  She allowed me to cry, grieve, be angry, talk through tears, admit all of the irrational fears/thoughts that enter your mind following trauma.  She taught me that shock is a physical condition as much as emotional, and that it's okay to not be okay.  She did that all while pointing to the only One who can calm our fears and heal our hearts.  

Again, I must point you to God and His hand of provision and protection. Provision came in the sweetest couple who were cleaning the church that night.  I, embarrassingly, admit that I am not even sure of their names, but I will never forget their kindness and composure that made me feel incredibly safe.  The woman knew something was wrong immediately and told her husband to let me in and lock the door.  Once inside she asked me what had happened, called 911, called Candace, and she even offered her very own shoes because I was barefoot.  I have no doubt that God placed them there that night, and I do not have the words to express my gratitude for the glimpse of light in the stained glass window and the SUV in the parking lot.

I feel I must include one other group especially as our media tends to only share the worst examples of these people.  The men and women in blue - the police officers, detectives, agents from the MS Bureau of Investigation, and now the district attorneys were the best examples of what they should be.  As a young woman, I felt like they treated me as they would have their own daughters.  They sought to provide answers and ask meaningful questions without ever making me feel less of a person.  They worked diligently in the weeks following to catch him, and they continue to work to make sure he is in a place where he can no longer hurt someone.  

I still carry that Thursday night with me, but it does not win.  I will not let fear win or have any power over my life.  In January, I began a fitness journey by joining in a challenge to walk at least a mile every day and post that progress on social media, and after going to the gym this morning I have walked for 2oo straight days!  I moved into an apartment on my own.  One day I found myself afraid to go outside my apartment at night, and I became angry that this person had taken away my feeling of security.  In my walking and praying, I was able to let go of that anger and channel that energy into fighting back against the darkness and fear.  Now all of my "walking posts" carry the #fightback along with whatever might be going on inside my scattered head that day.  Now I have a decal with #fightback on my truck, and we have sold t-shirts with #fightback that helped me pay off the car that was stolen.  I cannot tell you the number of people who I have come into contact with that have asked me where my strength comes from.  Again I must point you to Christ and His strength.  I have no other explanation as it is impossible without HIM.

Some of you may wonder why I would share the worst night of my life with the world, and it is a valid question.  Let me point you to Acts 1 where Christ tells the disciples that they will be His "witnesses in Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria, and even to the remotest parts of the earth."  Also take a glance at 1 Peter 3 where Peter tells the church "...do not be troubled, but sanctify Christ as Lord in your hearts, always being ready to make a defense to everyone who asks you to give an account for the hope that is in you with gentleness and reverence..."  Can I tell you that the original recipients of these words experienced much more difficult circumstances than I can imagine, and Christ commanded them to tell their stories.  You and I can argue creation vs. evolution all day long; however, you cannot discredit my story of how Christ rescued me. That calm that washed over me that night that very well could be what kept me alive is because of the hope that is in me. I am well aware of the statistics of female victims who live to tell their story, and I am the very rare exception.  He rescued me physically that night, but He rescued my soul many years prior when I placed my faith in Christ and repented of my sins.   

It is my sincere prayer that you see God in this account just as clearly as I have throughout this process.  Fear does not have to control you.  It does not win.  I will leave you with Philippians 4:6-7.
"Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.  And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard your hearts, and your minds in Christ Jesus."


my story - part two

There is a really popular worship song right now called "No Longer Slaves" by Bethel Music, and it was one of the first songs I heard following that night.  I was in worship at my church, and the band sang this song as I wept.  Because I could say with certainty that I knew what it meant to be rescued by God, I prayed that I would no longer be a slave to fear.  This fear that made its way into my heart that night is something I continue to struggle with, but in those times, I remember how He held me in His arms that night.

Once again, I don't want you to get caught up in "details" and not see God's hand so I will not share everything that happened that night.  I would rather not be the "prayer request" you whisper about behind my back, and to be completely honest, it takes me at least a week to recuperate from having to tell every detail of that night.  Instead I would rather you focus on what I have to focus on and that is His provision from beginning to end.

I told you in part one that night felt like a death of something, a great many things actually.  The death of safety, security, a feeling of home being the safest place on earth, innocence, and quite possibly the death of one part of my life.  That night stands as the cusp between B.C. and A.D. of sorts for me.  I must warn you that this may be disturbing for some.  Everything after this night would be affected in some form by these events.

If you know me at all, you know I love Nehemiah, and if you study Nehemiah you will see these prayers uttered by Nehemiah that are almost like breaths recorded from a constant dialogue between Nehemiah and God.  Since studying Nehemiah, I have began to see prayer like that - not as some formal ritual but just a constant dialogue between He and I.  To be real, it is not often enough that I quiet my own heart to allow His side of the dialogue to be heard.  I thought I would share some of these breaths.

When this man entered the kitchen while I was washing dishes screaming and cursing, he told me that if I didn't do anything stupid, he wouldn't kill me.  I can't explain the calm that came over me - it wasn't immediate but it was effective.  My thoughts went to every cop show I had ever watched, and I had two immediate reactions.  One, "is this way I will die?" and two, "don't do anything to make the crazy man angry." Once again, I had this calm that came over me as my thoughts were running wild.

The man wanted money, and being the 21st century girl, I had little cash.  This meant a frightening change of scenery to my car in search of an ATM that would take my debit card.  As I was driving, my thoughts gave way to prayers.
  "Candace and Brent are getting married in two weeks, please don't let me be the whispered about reason for the extra memorial candle."

He got the money, the driving continued, and it was clear I would not be returning to the beautiful home in the country.  New fear rose up in me as I realized he no longer needed me.
  "Dear God, please don't let me be found mangled in some strange house three counties over.  Please don't let someone have to make that call to my Mama - Mom and Dad - that would kill them."

The night wore on, and the drive took me further from everything familiar.
"Just let him leave me on the side of the road.  I can get home, I can find a phone if he will just leave me on the side of the road."

Finally, after driving through three counties and enduring the night, he had me pull over on the side of the road, told me to get out, that he was leaving and he didn't know how I was going to get home.  He drove away in my car as I walked away on the side of the road.

Friends, let me tell you how God answered every prayer.  It wasn't just any side of the road, it was the parking lot of a church.  Through a yellow pane of stained glass window it looked like there were lights on in the church and there was an SUV in the back parking lot.  I knocked on the door, and I felt relief as the door opened to the sweetest older couple cleaning the church.  The woman told the man to let me in and lock the door.  It felt very much like the arms of Jesus open wide for me.  I was very much alive, in a church, and the woman called Candace to tell her what happened.  I just couldn't be the one to call Mom and Dad because I knew that it would hurt them so much.  Looking back, I realize that I should have called them if for their sanity alone.

I felt this intense relief to be alive while at the same time feeling exposed as my oh-so-private life was dissected by many police officers and detectives from at least 2 counties and the MBI.  In the days to come, it was apparent that my life would never be the same.  I think part of me died that night, but I also believe that God gave life to a new part of me that night.  But... that will come in the final part.


My Story - part one

If I am honest, I have been ready to tell this story for a few weeks, but I have struggled with how to tell you this story.  I think the lessons I have learned through this story are sometimes drowned out by the serious, frightening logistical details of the story.  My prayer is that through telling it this way, you will see the amazingly powerful Hand of God active and alive in my story.

I read somewhere that even Judas was part of the plan.  God used the betrayal of a friend that led to death on the cross to redeem us, and I have to believe that He uses the very worst of our circumstances to redeem and sanctify us.  We don't get to see His Hand in the moment, but it can become apparent in hindsight.  In the book Esther when the Jewish people were threatened, Mordecai tells Esther that perhaps she was queen "for such a time as this."  God put things into motion long before Esther was even thought of.

 Maybe, just maybe God had aligned things in my life to lead to this place, to share this story with you.  It began with a job relocation - teaching in Smith County.  That's right, teaching.  Can we say dream fulfilled?But with every dream comes sacrifices, namely a 35 minute drive from my home in Jones County.  A new car helped with the gas mileage - it was a Chevy Cruze and beautiful.  I loved my car and my job - I was pretty much a happy Beaty girl.

Next came the wedding - Candace (sister/best buddy/roommate) and Brent (then fiance/now husband/awesome man) were getting married which allowed me  to consider moving closer to my job.  Through Facebook and some helpful hints, I found the cutest little 3 bedroom house right over the Smith county line and an entire 7 minutes from work.  It was perfect - Candace and I made arrangements to move just a month before the wedding.  I was excited to be a country mouse with space after many years in the city in an apartment building with people surrounding you ALL THE TIME. The front yard has one of the most amazing views of the night sky.  Through this time, God began leading me through Psalms.  It felt like He was breathing new life and fresh air and love into my soul.

I felt safe and secure - life was beautiful.

About two weeks into living in my new, super cute, country house, I was home alone on a Thursday night which in and of itself is something of a unicorn.  We usually have Thursday night dinner as a family, but Dad had diabetic class so we moved it to a different night.  Because we had a free night, Candace and Brent were working on their home as the wedding was just weeks away.  A night at home alone to watch TV, relax, regroup was particularly appealing to me.  If you know me at all, you know that I quite enjoy my alone time.

It was this night, at home, alone when all of my safety and securtiy and beauty went straight through the bedroom window.  Coincidentally, it was the same bedroom window that the police believe to be the entry point for the strange man who came into my home with a gun and kidnapped me.  This man became the Judas in my story - it led to the biggest change in my life which felt very much like a death of something. For a long time, I was angry at this man that obliterated my security, and I still have moments of anger when something scares me.  However, these moments don't last long when I return to my plum line of God's word and realize that it was His Hand and His Plan that led me to that moment and brought me safely through.  But that's the next part of this story...


broken and beautiful

Well it's been a minute or two since my last post. If I am quite honest, I just became bored with this blog.  I had run out of things to say or I didn't want to take the time to write down the things I wanted to say and do it well.  I am not really sure of the reason, but I want to get back to blogging if only for the catharsis that it is for me.  Writing these things down, or typing these things out rather, is a form of confession and healing for me.  I read James 5:16 today, and it says (in my words) that confessing our sins to others is healing for us; therefore, I am just trying to apply medicine to my wounds through this blog.

What confession must I make today?  Well today I am broken.  I am broken hearted for my cousins who are more like brothers that are mourning the loss of their mother.  My heart aches for my mother who has lost yet another sibling and for my Papaw who has buried yet another child...

For my aunt still finding her way after tragedy struck years ago...
For the family that is grieving the young boy killed in the car accident...
For my kids at school whose parents choose not to participate their child's life..

The small group that I teach is currently in the middle of a study titled, Lord, Where Are You When Bad Things Happen?  Intellectually, I can affirm that God is good and that there is a purpose to our pain, and it is to this truth that I grasp, white-knuckled when things turn tragic.  But the pain is still there, and my heart still aches.  Tears still fall.  I have never really been able to wrap my head around death - its not fathomable to me that people that were laughing on the front porch one day can be gone the next.

So tonight I am seeking healing - confessing these things to you and spending some much needed alone time on my porch in my chair my Papaw built for me.

And I am reminiscing on the past week. While it has been one of those weeks that just hurts, it has also been one of those weeks where my heart has been filled.  My cousins chose our church for the visitation and funeral for my Aunt, and I must admit I was apprehensive.  Grief and family are two things I keep private from the rest of the world, and here we were about to open an extremely private matter up to people who don't normally see that side of me.  Please don't get me wrong, I love my church dearly.  I just don't trust too many people with the big things.  But please let me tell you that I am so glad we were home at CrossPointe this past week - the entire staff and family were so incredibly giving and kind to my family.  It was a truly beautiful mixture of my family and my church family.  They ministered so beautifully to my grief-stricken family, and I am beyond grateful.

To the people who ran sound, cooked meals, cleaned up after us, made many pots of coffee, and preached the service - we are so thankful for you.  Words will never suffice for how blessed we are by CrossPointe Community Church.

It is during times of crisis, that we put pen to paper to attempt to make sense of our world.  Tonight, I am not sure if any of this makes sense, but I hope, somehow, it helps.


Cindy Lou

Dear Friends,
Today I feel a little like Cindy Lou Who in the Grinch - the words of “Where Are You Christmas” running through my head.  I am not sure where my Christmas spirit went, but I know for sure I have misplaced it.  I love this time of year, and I am normally Ms. Christmas.  I started listening to Christmas music in October and my tree was up before Thanksgiving. But this year has been different for me.  I don’t know if it was the feeling of everything being rushed or for the first time I felt the pressure to buy the perfect gift for everyone.  We have been surrounded by parties and people, and I not saying those are bad things.  I just feel like I missed Christmas while I was supposed to be celebrating Christmas.  I tried so hard to get it back, but here it is December 26th and I missed Christmas.  

I missed the magic of the lights.
I missed the feeling I get when we sit down and open presents.
I missed my Mamaw something fierce.

I think the problem is not that those things were not there, but that I wasn’t present for them.  I have been so worried about Christmas - I forgot to enjoy it.  I am sorry I know this post may be a little sad for the day after Christmas, but I had to get these feelings out.  Now that I have - I feel a lot better.  I think I shall celebrate Christmas now.  


nerd life

So this summer, I am working part-time in an office with my Mom which means a little extra money and squeezing all of my favorite summer-time activities into the four days that I don't work.  You know all of the summer-time activities that are particularly thrilling to nerds like me.  For example, cleaning and reorganizing closets, catching up on my summer reading list (which would rival that of Rory Gilmore), spending as much time in the sun without resembling a lobster, and possibly disappearing into some form of inexpensive adventure.

So far this summer, I have started four books but finished 3.  The only one that I have yet to finish is The Book Thief, and I am looking forward to finishing it. Its intense and sad, but I will finish it. The 3 I have read to completion are The Fault in Our Stars, Beautiful Disaster, and Walking Disaster.  I absolutely loved all 3, and I love that the books we read throughout our lives shape who we are for better or worse.  Books allow you to escape to worlds and experience emotions without the commitment of living through them even though I often find myself entrenched in the worlds created long after the book is finished.  I can't completely separate myself from both the love and darkness Hazel Grace feels in Fault, and to say that I identify with Pigeon who is both attracted to and afraid to fall for the Disaster of a man in both Beautiful and Walking Disaster is the understatement of the century.

Now I am not going to say that you need to read these books because your taste may be completely different from mine.  I am just going to encourage you to read - read whatever it is that you find appealing.  It will enrich your life and your view of the world.  I thought, in the interest of inspiration and in hopes you will share yours with me,  I would share my summer reading list with you.

The Book Thief
Anne Frank: The Diary of a Young Girl 
To Kill a Mockingbird
Wuthering Heights
The Giver
The Secret Life of Bees
The Hiding Place
Number the Stars

If I read all of those, I have some classics that I would like to read at some point.  So as I said, I would love to hear about the books you are reading or planning to read.  Also for those of you who have children, Scholastic has a summer reading challenge you can learn more about here.

So nerds, go read a book.


remind me

So it has been a while since my last post - life has been incredibly busy lately. I have missed this as it is my favorite/only outlet for all of the thoughts that are often jumbled up inside my head. I hate pulling the busyness card because it will inevitably sound like the worst excuse known to man, but it is the truth.  I have no other reason, no other excuse to offer other than busyness.  It is during these times when I forget things and must be reminded of those ideas that are of vital importance to my life.

1.  I have to remember who God is and just how big He is.  In the busyness, I get caught up in my own petty problems and forget that He is Almighty God.  I like the idea that He wants to be my friend, but I love that He is my fortress, my strong tower, and the place from which I gain strength.  You know that I LOVE Nehemiah, and I often go there when I am discouraged or grumpy from being discouraged.  So I thought I would share Nehemiah 4:14-16 with you again.
"When I saw their fear, I rose and spoke to the nobles, the officials, and the rest of the people: 'Do not be afraid of them(those people who were trying to discourage them from building the wall); remember the Lord who is great and awesome and fight for your brothers, your sons, your daughters, your wives, and your houses.'"

2.  This verse also reminds me of who I am - not some weak, little pipsqueak!  I, we are called to be warriors - to fight.  The war belongs to God, but we are certainly soldiers in the battles.  I have two verses for you on this one.  Galatians 4:6 says that,
"Because you are sons, God has sent forth the Spirit of His Son into our hearts, crying, 'Abba! Father!'"
And 2 Timothy 1:7 tells us about this Spirit.  
"For God has not given us a spirit of timidity, but of power, and love, and discipline."
I don't know about you, but I just love the idea that God sends His Spirit into our hearts.  Through Christ, we have access to God and His abundance - grace, mercy, comfort, strength, power, the list could go on forever.  There are days, and today is one of those when I have to pray, as Nehemiah did, "O God, strengthen my hands."

3.  Nehemiah 4 also reminds me why - why I get up every day and go to work, why I work with children.  We are fighting those battles for them, for those people God has entrusted to us.  I fight for the 20+ darlings that climb the stairs to Extended Care every day.  I fight for the 100+ boys and girls that darken the doors of the CrossPointe Kids building.  I fight for the ladies that work with me every day, and most importantly I fight for George, Joyce, Candace, Brittany, Jonathan, Madison, Wyatt, Daisy Claire, Papaw, David, Brittany, Aunt Debbie, Ben, Mallorie, the boys, and many other family members.

Maybe you are like me and need someone to say, "Remind me, who do you fight for?"