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...