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."