Monthly Archives: February 2010

Single and Living Free

Single and Living Free Book CoverSingle and Living Free by Ed Houston
SingleandLivingFree.com

Single and Living Free is a self help guide that teaches both men and women on how to break through the strongholds and addictions that often plague, blindside, and hinder Christian singles from living a life of wholeness and fulfillment.

This guide, centered on biblical truths, teaches singles practical steps on how to discover their identity in God, in an effort to realize true freedom and the plans He has for their lives. This book comes with what Houston calls a Goal Journal Companion a non-traditional approach designed to encourage singles to seize life by setting goals and journaling their way through to freedom.

Purchase your own copy here.

Letters 4 the Lord

Letters4theLord PictureLetters 4 the Lord is a nationwide correspondence ministry to those in prison and their families. As well as a networking ministry to stay connected with other prison ministries for support; encouragement; and exchange of ideas and resources.

If you have a loved one in prison who needs cards and letters, please send in their contact information and we will write them. We want to hear from other prison ministries as well.

For more information or to see how you can help, click here.

Follow Letters for the Lord on Twitter at twitter.com/letters4thelord

Meet Margie Robinson

Margie Robinson Picture
Identity Theft Awareness and Protection
Lee & M Robinson & Associates

Margie resides in Norfolk, VA
Her hobbies include reading, writing, music, walking, and TV.
She joined the Friendz Network to network with like minded women who are on a path that I am on.

She is retired from Civil Service and from the United States Navy Reserves. She holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in Human Resources Administration and an Associates of Arts Degree in Medical Administrative Assisting. She is the owner of L & M Robinson & Associates located in Norfolk, VA.

She is a retired Real Estate agent and a retired insurance agent. She presents Real Estate, motivational, and Identity Theft workshops to various groups. She is the author of “FORMULA FOR SUCCESS – Success Can be Yours Too”, released in April 2009, and “Are You ‘You’ or Is Someone Else ‘You”? – Protect Yourself from Identity Theft”, also released in April 2009.

She wants to connect with Authors, Publishers, Book Buyers, Book Store Owners, Editors, Spiritual Leaders, and Women on the move.

Surviving Unemployment Devotions to Go

Surviving Unemployment Devotions to Go Book CoverWhen Marietta Taylor and her husband relocated from Chicago, Illinois to Raleigh, North Carolina, they encountered a life-changing surprise. With two young daughters in tow, their move was dependent upon both their incomes. While Marietta began work as planned, Rick’s promise of a job transfer fell through. Feelings of excited anticipation quickly gave way to panic, uncertainty, and fear of the struggles to come.

As the lady of the house, Taylor begins the astounding task of working a full-time job, getting her daughters adjusted to their new school, and helping her husband to start from scratch, piecing together a resume, scouring employment listings, and going on job interviews.

Marietta Taylor’s book, “Surviving Unemployment Devotions to Go,” is a devotional that reads like an e-mail from a friend. She is candid, smart, and funny. She reveals to you the things that most people wouldn’t, just so you can learn from her experiences. Each chapter has a scriptural reference and a prayer focus that condition you to hold on to the Lord’s promises and obey His Word, even as the storm of circumstances make you a little unsteady.

“Surviving Unemployment Devotions to Go,” offers tips on thankfulness (Taylor’s family challenged themselves to find a ‘silver lining’ during the worst days), frugality and money-making (She never shopped without a coupon and sold to consignment shops for extra cash), and keeping a consistent relationship with God (She says that prayer is like anti-itch cream…re-apply as needed.)

The emotions and obstacles brought about by unemployment are some that many of us face each day in different situations. There is debt, marital discord, and the tough job of trying to meet the needs of everyone in the family. I would recommend this devotional to any woman who manages a household.

Taylor shows us that we can live, love, and laugh through our issues, and make the best possible decisions, while we trust God to lead us out of them.

Read an excerpt of “Surviving Unemployment Devotions to Go” at www.mariettataylor.net. Get your copy at www.edmbookstore.com.

Book Review by Adrienne Adams
President
The Write Vision Group
www.wtvmin.com

I Don’t Really Want to Hurt My Child

Baby Crying PictureDarcy’s training pants were wet again. Again!

Marching over to my two-year-old daughter, I directed her into the bathroom. As I struggled to pull down the soaking pants, I felt a rush of frustration and a sense of failure.

“Darcy, you’re supposed to come in the bathroom and go in the potty chair. Why can’t you learn?” I continued to berate her. As I began spanking her with my hand, my tension and tired¬ness found an outlet. Spanking changed to hitting.

Darcy’s uncontrollable screaming brought me back to reason. Seeing the red blister on her bottom, I dropped to my knees.

“How can I act this way?” I sobbed. “I love Jesus. I don’t really want to hurt my child. Oh God, please help me.”

The rest of that day I held my anger in check. The next day started out pleasantly. I watched my happy daughter. /How could I ever be angry with you or want to hurt you?/

But as the day progressed and pressures closed in on me, I became impatient. I looked forward to a few moments of peace while Darcy and two-month-old Mark took their naps.

Telling Darcy to play quietly in her room, I rocked Mark to sleep. Just as I laid him carefully into his crib, Darcy burst into the room shouting, “Mommy, I want to color.”

Mark woke up crying. I grabbed Darcy by the shoulders, shook her, and screamed, “Shut up! Shut up! I want him to go to sleep!”

Both Darcy and Mark cried as I shoved Darcy aside, rushed out of the bedroom, and walked through the house, banging walls, and slamming doors. Only after I kicked a kitchen cupboard and dented it did my anger subside.

As the weeks turned into months, my anger habit worsened. At times I grew so violent that I hit my toddler in the head. Other times I kicked her or slapped her face.

As a Christian for ten years, I was ashamed. /Oh, God/, I prayed over and over again, /please take away my anger/. Yet no matter how much I prayed, I could not control my anger when Darcy didn’t perform according to my desires. I turned into a screaming mother wondering whether I might kill Darcy in one of my next rages. In time, I had to be honest with myself–I was abusing her. “Oh, God, no, I’m a child abuser! Help me!”

I was afraid to tell Larry, my husband. /After all, he’s a policeman. He’s arresting people for the very things I’m doing/. I certainly couldn’t tell my friends, either. What would they think of me? I led a Bible study. I was looked up to as a strong Christian woman. But inside I was screaming for help.

One day I realized Larry had left his off duty service revolver in the bureau drawer. Convinced God no longer loved me and had given up on me, I concluded suicide was the only answer. Then I wouldn’t hurt Darcy any more. But then the thought sprang into my mind. “But if people hear a Christian like me committed suicide, what will they think of Jesus?” I couldn’t bear the thought that Jesus’ name would be maligned, even if I wasn’t acting much like a Christian.

Even though suicide was no longer an option, I didn’t have any hope. /God doesn’t answer my prayers for an instantaneous deliverance of my anger, so He must not care/. I was in a pit of despair and depression.

One day, I shared briefly with a neighbor friend about my anger. She didn’t condemn me like another friend had when I’d tried to share my pain. She even indicated she felt angry towards her children too. /Oh, Lord, maybe there’s hope for me after all/, I cried out when I left her house that day.

From that point on, God seemed to break through my despair and little by little revealed the underlying causes and the solutions for my anger. And there were many. I had to learn how to identify my anger before it became destructive. I forced myself to believe God wanted to forgive me-over and over again. Reading books about disciplining children effectively, I became more consistent in responding calmly to Darcy’s disobedience. She became better behaved.

I also copied verses like Ephesians 4:31 and Proverbs 10:12 onto cards, placing them in various locations throughout the house. As I took Darcy into the bathroom, I would be reminded that “Hatred stirreth up strife; but love covereth all sins” (Proverbs 10:12). These verses helped to break my cycle of anger.

Eventually, I had the courage to share my problem with my Bible study group. James 5:16 admonishes us to “admit your faults to one an¬other and pray for each other so that you may be healed.” They prayed for me and their prayers indeed had “wonderful results.”

Through a difficult process of growth of over a year, God’s Holy Spirit empowered me to be the loving, patient mother to Darcy that I wanted to be. I learned many principles during that time that I now share in the parenting books I’ve written like /When Counting to Ten Isn’t Enough/ (Xulon Press). I also teach parenting seminars.

I’m thankful to the Lord for healing the relationship between Darcy and me. A beautiful 33-year-old, Darcy has for¬given me for the way I treated her and we share a close relationship

Although I wondered during that unhappy time of my life whether God could ever forgive me for the horrible things I’d done, I know now that He has. As Psalm 40:1-3 says, He pulled me up out of my pit of destruction and set me on the solid rock of Jesus.

Kathy Collard Miller (www.KathyCollardMiller.com) is a popular women’s retreat speaker and the author of 49 books including /Women of the Bible: the Smart Guide to the Bible (Thomas Nelson).

You Never know what a Day will Bring

gone-to-soon“You never know what a day will bring.”

That is what someone told my daughter seven years ago. When it comes to losing a loved one, I wish I could say that I don’t know how it feels. But I can’t. I know exactly how it feels, and it hurts.

Whether your loved one is terminally ill and fighting for his life or something tragic happens and he is gone, it hurts.

With us, it was sudden; totally unexpected. I’m still not sure why it happened, I just know that, (and this is from what I was told), John was in the wrong place, at the wrong time when someone who was mad at the world took out his frustrations on him.

John was beaten so badly, he had to be taken to the hospital by ambulance; not the one nearby, but to one downtown that deals with severe trauma.

Christina was only 12 years old, and we were not close anymore. She kept everything inside and turned to her friends. I was a basket case, reaching out for help that was not always there. In fact, people were telling me to be strong. How can you be strong when your dearest friend on Earth, your husband, was dying?

I didn’t have a home church yet, which made it worse because there was almost no support system. My mother-in-law flew in from Michigan after John was hurt and two months later when he died. She was such a blessing. Even John, lying in the hospital on life-support was comforting. That might sound weird, but we were so close, I really believe that he wanted to “be there” for us.

But that was John; always “there”.

We were only married a little more than eight years. We had a small wedding; simple and sweet. He made our life wonderful because
he was wonderful.

I miss everything about him; his sandy hair and blue eyes that twinkled. I miss his quiet laugh and gentle spirit. He was adorable,
and I wish my mother could have met him. She would have been thrilled.

John was so smart and articulate. He could talk for hours about history and music. He loved jazz, the blues, and played several instruments. I used to say that he forgot more than I knew. And he was so humble about it.

John was such an animal lover, so of course we had pets; two cats and a dog. Once he figured out their personality, he would “talk”
for them. It was hilarious.

I miss his cooking. I miss his laugh. I miss the way he used to open his mouth in a happy, welcoming smile, and lift his arms
shoulder-height to greet me when I stopped by at his job, and when I came home. Kisses and arms!

He was a precious husband and a wonderful stepfather to Christina, taking time to read to her and help her with homework. But he
never tried to take the place of her dad. Many weekends we’d drive to Newport News from Richmond, and back so she could spend time with him. If John couldn’t go with us because of work, he’d worry about me falling asleep at the wheel.

So when he was in the hospital, I always told him that I would call and let the phone ring just to let him know I made it back safely.

I know God was there. And I’m grateful for the precious people He sent to encourage and pray for us. Christina kept her distance a lot, maybe it was God’s way of protecting her from so much pain. But there were times when she could sense His Presence. She said she saw angels near John, and a couple of nights before he died; she told me that she saw Jesus comforting him.

After Jesus carried him home, I wanted to go too. Christina spent more and more time with her friends, so I was alone a lot. I started thinking about the old hymns that talked about dying, Heaven, and Jesus Coming back again. Lyrics that once were just words now became my life support.

I eventually found my church and plunged in. When the former pastor died, I had the honor of running the sound system at his funeral. The service was precious and comforting. I took in every word. The speaker quoted the verses from the song, “It Is Well”. My spirit jumped for joy. We sang that the night of John’s memorial service!

God didn’t forget Christina either. He is so faithful. The Easter Season is a glorious reminder that He Who raised Jesus from the dead shall also quicken our mortal bodies one day. Even so, come, Lord Jesus. Hallelujah!

Dana MacDermid is a freelance writer based in Richmond, Virginia

Single Parent

Woman and crying baby PictureI, single parent, mother to one son age 10 am truly beginning to embrace motherhood in a way that I probably wouldn’t be able to conceive had I not been walking hand in hand with Christ. After surviving multiple trips to the emergency room for nebulizer treatments, one negative phone call from a teacher at his school, dozens of evasive questions about the relationship between his father and me, I truly felt like I wasn’t fully equipped for this single-parenting concept.

After many more tears, trials and tribulations, here I am still standing and loving being a single mother. I stumble, I fall, I feel inadequate and the other day I had to laugh at myself for pulling up instructions on Youtube.com to tie my son’s tie for church. I truly believe that God extends His hand of grace towards the clueless and in that manner of respect I am so thankful that He hasn’t revoked my parenting privileges.

You may laugh and think that I’ve lost all sense and sensibility but I truly have learned to allow God to lead and guide me not only through single parenting but in every aspect of my life. I believe that God’s word really is my parenting manual. Sometimes it becomes critical to remind myself that God’s strength is made perfect in my weakness. So when I was laid off (twice) and my car repossessed (three times), I had to learn how to proclaim that the Lord is my shepherd I shall not want and that He would provide our needs according to His riches in glory.

Then there was the time when my son caught some highly contagious, horrible stomach flu bug and was admitted in the hospital with severe dehydration, God brought to my remembrance that Jesus died for our transgressions and by His stripes we are healed. When my son comes home from school with assignments that are difficult, I encourage him to recite our memory verse “I can do all things through Christ which strengthens me”.

Most recently I had to console my son after the loss of my father, his “pop-pop” and God strengthened me that I might be able to relay to him how precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of His saints. Parenting is truly a “faith walk” (we walk by faith and not by sight) so I, single parent am committed to completing my life-long journey as a mother, one title that I will embrace for a life-time.

~~~~~~~

Joy Turner
Author, Speaker, Freelance Writer, Entrepreneur and Full-time Single Mom
Visit her site at JoyTurner.net

In The Dark

blackIn the dark is where most women hide when they are being abused, too ashamed to let anyone know how much pain they are in; feelings of loneliness, guilt, hurt, and abandonment stick closer than any friend.

You ask yourself “Why do I stay?” but the answer is not an easy one because you are torn between two emotions: love and hate. For many women living in domestic violence they are faced with these and other questions on a daily basis. Thousand of women die with their dreams inside of them, but no one could see or hear their cries because they were in the dark.

The domestic violence statistics are staggering, but for African American women they are off the chart. During this month of Domestic Violence Awareness, we as women must become the light for our sisters hiding in the dark. We must help them out of despair with love, patience, and understanding. As a domestic violence survivor, I know this must be a gentle and patient process if we want the light to shine on darkness.

October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month, but we must be careful not to let the light go out when October ends. We must be steadfast in our approach and know that this is a day-by-day effort. Sisters around the world must know that we care and that they are not in the dark alone.
# # #

The American Institute of Domestic Violence provides the following statistics:

· 85-95% of all domestic violence victims are female.
· Over 500,000 women are stalked by an intimate partner each year.
· 5.3 million women are abused each year.
· 1,232 women are killed each year by an intimate partner.
· Domestic violence is the leading cause of injury to women.
· Women are more likely to be attacked by someone they know rather than by a stranger.

# # #

Veronica McMillan is no longer a victim of domestic violence. She is the minority. There are so many victims today – men, women, teenagers and even small children – the cycle does not end. In her quest to combat this disease, Veronica founded Let’s Talk, Inc.

Nicole Cleveland, Founder and Chief Editor of Breathe Again Magazine, recently spoke with Veronica to learn more about her personal story and identify how all of us can help in the battle against this disease.

BAM: Tell me about your organization and why you stepped out on faith.

Veronica: Let’s Talk, Inc. is an organization that empowers women to find balance and wholeness in every area of her life. This empowerment comes when her thinking changes. Positive thinking will lead to positive decision-making, positive decision-making will lead to positive action steps to change. I stepped out on faith because all my crutches were taken away. I had to stand and I am a sister that knows how to survive when everything else is gone. One must believe that out of darkness comes light if you trust and believe in God’s word. You will soon find out that all things will work out for your good.

BAM: What do you need?

Veronica: Let’s Talk, Inc. needs mentors who have experienced life’s hard blows and survived with the story to tell of redemption and restoration. We also need financial support of any kind. I must add that we need male role models for the boys-to-men program.

BAM: How long were you abused?

Veronica: I was in the relationship for about six years, but the abuse started about the third year of the relationship.

BAM: Did you think he would kill you?

Veronica: No, my plan was to kill him. (I mean literally kill him.)

BAM: Why did you stay? And do you think that is why most women stay?

Veronica: The reason will be different for each woman. Her situation dictates her response along with her fears, doubts, lack of self control, et cetera.

BAM: Did you think you could change him?

Veronica: Yes.

BAM: Have you forgiven him?

Veronica: Forgiveness is the only way to move forward.

BAM: What is your advice to someone that is in an abusive relationship reading this?

Veronica: My advice to any woman is to find someone that you can trust that may have experienced the same thing and make small steps toward getting out. Know that there is life after death. By this I man you feel like you are dead on the inside, but you are never dead if you can breathe.

BAM: How can we help? What should we do if we know someone that is being abused?

Veronica: Be patient and understanding with individuals in abusive situations because change is extremely difficult.

Visit www.letstalkinc.org today

© Breathe Again Magazine 2008

One Bottle of Maple Syrup

syrupOne Bottle of Maple Syrup
By Sue Swartwood as told to Faith Bogdan

“…Who satisfies your mouth with good things….” Psalm 103:5

Living on eighty-five dollars a week in those early days as a pastor’s wife wasn’t easy. My faith, and our meager salary, were constantly being stretched.

The year was 1977. Dave and I pastored a small congregation in Wilmore, Pennsylvania. We were a young family, poor, yet enjoying our busy life of Sunday services, weekday visitations and community outreaches in the heart of coal mining country.

On a chilly autumn morning we buckled six-month-old Megan into her car seat and bounced along country roads in our blue Chevy Nova to deliver a modest paycheck to the bank. Next was a routine trip to nearby Portage for a week’s supply of groceries.

Dave placed baby Megan atop a shopping cart, and we screeched through the parking lot toward the automated double doors of The Grand Union. I pulled my woolen jacket tighter around my chest. The air was as crisp as the new ten-dollar bill I clutched in my pocket.

Ten dollars. Would it be enough to feed our family of three for the next seven days?

Within minutes we found ourselves once again in aisle seven, placing in our cart what had become the lone cupboard staple: pancake mix. It was a cheap solution for every meal. Thrice daily we dined on pancakes—sprinkled with sugar, spread with jam, dusted with powdered sugar as a seldom treat, or on rarer occasions drizzled with luxurious melted margarine (never costly butter!).

What I longed to pour over my “breakfast meals” more than anything was warmed maple syrup. For days, I’d mentally savored the perfect salty-sweet union of margarine and syrup soaking a steaming Hungry Jack stack. I could almost taste its sweet stickiness on my lips.

But a small bottle of generic, imitation maple syrup cost twenty-nine cents in those days—a quarter and four pennies we’d fallen short of each time we totaled the cost of the items on our grocery list.

On this day I was especially hopeful after reading promises of God’s provision in the scriptures that morning. Stacking cans of baby formula next to the pancake mix, I looked at Dave and ventured, “Do you think we might be able to get a small bottle of maple syrup this time?”

“Let’s wait and see.” His eyes twinkled with expectation. Dave’s faith was one that I’d come to depend on for added strength. I could sense that we both felt sure of God’s plan to finally bless us with the prized syrup.

I checked “milk” off our grocery list and found the cheapest plastic bottle of fake maple syrup, placing it on the metal rungs of the grocery cart as gently as I had handled baby Megan. Dave calculated the total as we took our place in the checkout line.

We were nineteen cents short.

Tears spilled onto my hot cheeks as I all but slammed the syrup back in its rightful place. On the drive home, my emotions were as gray as the coal-dusted snow falling on the road. An angry outburst broke the silence. “He owns the cattle on a thousand hills, but He can’t even spare us one bottle of maple syrup!”

“Be glad we have pancakes,” Dave murmured.

He was right. After whimpering in self-pity for a while, I silently confessed my ungratefulness to God. We went home to another syrup-less pancake dinner.

Two evenings later the phone rang. It was the elderly Mrs. Templeton, one of our church pillars. Would I be offended if she and her daughter brought over a few bags of groceries?

I held my composure and chirped, “Of course not!”

We said good-bye and I leaped, whooped, and then fell to the dining table, stunned. The phone conversation replayed itself in my mind. How did she know? Dave and I had been careful to keep our financial struggles a secret. We were determined to hold our hands up to the Lord, and not out to people.

That Friday night at seven o’clock there was a knock at our door—and three brown paper bags full of groceries. Luxuries I’d only admired on supermarket shelving displays—a no-bake cheesecake kit, soups, corn bread mix. And yes, at the bottom of the last bag, a medium sized bottle of Log Cabin maple syrup.

But no pancake mix.

Who would give syrup with no pancake mix? I smiled. The One Who knew we just needed a new topping.

Faith Bogdan
www.thenonreligiouschristian.blogspot.com

Coming Home to My Body

An Excerpt from the book,” In The Eye of Deception” by Sarah R

From Cutting to Christ“Today, can we talk about the self-abuse? ” Toni asked.

I crossed my legs under me in the chair. I nodded, feeling a bit uneasy.

“Tell me when you started the cutting and throwing up and what that is about for you?”

‘I was only eight years old but the image burned in my mind like it had just happened. My mother told me to wait on my bed for my father to come home so he could “deal” with me. I failed a French test and needed it signed in order to return to school.

I heard the front door open. His voice. He was home. I prayed he was in a good mood. I could hear my parents talking in the living room but I couldn’t hear what they were saying. I didn‘t have to. I knew. I listened intently for every movement, every sound. His heavy footsteps making their way to my room, opening my door, his face visibly upset, my failed French paper in his hand.

“What’s this?” He screamed.

I shrugged my shoulders, petrified to say anything.

“Answer me you idiot, you dumbbell, you stupid retard. What is this garbage?” He waved the test paper at me. He was becoming furious.

I swallowed hard, terrified. “I don’t know.”

“You don’t know?” He shouted his voice getting hysterical. “What do you know? Do you know anything at all? Is there a brain in that stupid head of yours? What do I send you to school for?”

Without warning he lunged at me and brought the full weight of his hand down hard on the side of my head. I screamed in pain, the tears starting to fall down my cheeks. He didn’t care.

He dragged me off the bed and slapped me across the face. I cried out begging him, “Stop. Please stop! You’re hurting me.”

My cries meant nothing to him. He kept hitting me, punching me with his huge fists, on my face, my head, my arms, yelling insanely, “I’ll teach you to never bring home a failed test again. I am not raising an imbecile. I work hard, not for you to fail and be a dumbbell.”

I was screaming, choking my words out. “Stop. I’m sorry. I won’t do it again.” I couldn’t catch my breath. I was gasping, the sobs getting stuck in my throat.

“You’re sorry?” He was in a frenzy now. “I’ll teach you what sorry is!” He snarled.

I managed to slip free of his grip. I slid over the side of the bed and cringed in the corner, my hands over my head in an attempt to protect myself.

“I’m not finished with you yet.” He bellowed and sprung at me. He hit me repeatedly with unbearable force, swearing vulgar profanities.

I lay sprawled on the floor yet I could feel myself falling, spiraling down into a bottomless black hole. From far away, in the distance somewhere, I could still hear him screaming, and my mother now in back of him, “Stop it. You’re going to kill her. Stop it!”

His fists continued to beat me but I couldn’t feel it anymore. I closed my eyes and let go. My body went limp. I was consumed by the darkness.

When I came to, I was lying in my bed, unable to move. My body felt very sore. I opened my eyes halfway and saw my parents standing near the bed.

“I think we should take her to the hospital.” I heard my mother say. “You hit her too hard. She doesn’t look good.”

“She will be all right. Keep her home from school tomorrow.” My father’s voice was calm, sounding a bit scared.

My mother bent over me. “Sarah, try to drink this water.” She lifted the glass to my lips but I couldn’t drink. The water trickled down my mouth onto the pillow.

“I’m scared.” My mother said. “I’m really scared. Why did you have to hit her so hard?”

It took a few days for my body to recover from the assault and for the bruises to heal; however, that vicious attack affected me far deeper then the physical pain.

I looked at Toni not wanting to catch her eyes. I sat stiff, my body on edge, holding my breath. My voice quivered, “I remember not being able to feel. The only thing I felt was fear. I was afraid all the time. I remember being outside by myself and picking up a rock and pulling it hard back and forth across my arm. It sounds crazy but the pain felt so good. When I saw the blood start to trickle out it relaxed me. I know it sounds nuts but slashing my arms with razor blades and rocks was the only way I knew I was still alive. Seeing the blood reminded me I was still living. It confirmed to me that I was still alive.”

I felt strange talking about the self mutilation. I had never told anyone about this destructive habit. No one ever knew how desperate I had felt.

“Can I see your arms?” Toni asked quietly.

A sense of panic went through me but I nodded. I rolled up my sleeves and held out my arms wishing the floor would swallow me. Toni took my arms in her hands and very gently ran her fingers over the gashes and scars. I abruptly pulled my arms back and yanked my sleeves down. I was angry and embarrassed.

“What’s the matter Sarah?”

“I don’t want you to touch me! I don‘t like to be touched!” I answered, my face sullen.

“You know I am on your side Sarah. You must know that by now. I have only admiration for you. You have gone through so much. Week after week you have sat here and disclosed to me the awful trauma you went through. That takes so much courage. You need to know you are not in this by yourself anymore. I am here for you, to walk through this with you.”

I shrugged and kept my head down. I couldn’t look at her.

“Will you let me see your arms again Sarah? I am not judging you. I will never judge you.”

I rolled up my sleeves again and held my arms out to Toni. I wanted to run, to get away but for some reason I couldn’t.

Toni kept her eyes on me as she ran her fingers lightly again over the cuts. I flinched as if in pain. I closed my eyes as tight as I could and tried to go away in my mind.

“Stay present Sarah. Don’t retreat in your mind. Stay with me.”

I was breathing hard. I felt like running. What was it about Toni touching me that felt so bad? I didn’t know. I just knew it was unbearable.

As Toni rubbed my arms, she reassured me. “The Lord wants to heal you Sarah. He wants you to know that He also was beaten. He took a beating so that you wouldn’t have to hurt anymore. With the stripes that wounded him he has healed you and made you whole. He understands what you have gone through.”

Toni spoke with gentleness, still holding and stroking my arms.

“His accusers oppressed Him just as you were oppressed by your father and Christian. When they did that to Him, He also said nothing. He never opened his mouth. He let them do whatever they wanted just as you did. He knows exactly what you went through. The people that did that to Him killed him. He didn’t deserve it just like you didn’t deserve what they did to you. The difference Sarah, He took your pain when he died and He overcame it for you because He loves you.”

I sat rigid, afraid to move but hearing Toni say those words soothed me in some strange way.

Toni continued. “That’s right Sarah. He was wounded for you, so you can be free.”

I felt calmer.

“Take a deep breath in and let it out very slowly.” Toni instructed. “As you let that breath out, let your body relax. Relax your shoulders and know that no one is going to hurt you. Right now, here, you are safe.”

I always held my breathe, waiting for the inevitable attack from somewhere or from someone. My body was always tense. I took a deep breath in and tried to let go of the tension with the slow release of that breathe.

“Again Sarah. Do it one more time. Feel your body as you release that breath.”

I did. I looked at Toni. “Thank you.”

“You don’t have to thank me Sarah. God has begun a wonderful work in you and He will complete it. I am just privileged to be on this journey of healing and recovery with you.” Toni smiled, tears in her eyes.