It was 1996. I was 23 years old.
It was a Friday. I woke up when he kissed me goodbye. As he headed out the door to work, I muttered something about us needing to go grocery shopping after work – because all we had was canned food. And it was pay day – so let’s do it.
I went to work. I did my stuff. I tried calling him to check in… several times. Finally I reached someone at work who said he had called in sick that day.
He left for work before me. I don’t understand. I called home. No answer. I kept trying. Nothing. A bad feeling came over me. I left work for the day and went straight home – something wasn’t right.
I opened the front door… and stood there in shock.
The reality of what just happened played out in less than a minute… but it felt like minutes and minutes went by before I could walk into our nearly empty apartment. I stood there looking at a couch in the middle of the empty living room, with some things piled on top of it. The place we called home was now an empty shell.
Turns out he and his 3 brothers all took a day off to help him with this plan.
He was gone. No note. No explanation. Gone.
I’ll spare you some of the other details – but about an hour later I found him at the bank. He had just cashed out our bank accounts and maxed out our credit card. What transpired over the next 30 minutes (in the parking lot) was not pretty.
WHY and HOW can I celebrate this day each year?
Because the brief time we spent in a marriage was some of the hardest days in my lifetime, to date. I reflect on the journals I kept during that time and I don’t recognize who I was.
Insecure. Abused. Anxiety-ridden. Full of shame. Fearful. Sick.
I don’t look back to relive it, or to bemoan it, or to glorify any victim mentality – I look back to celebrate what God has done in my life in the past 25+ years. I reflect on what the pain of the past has done to propel me forward. I look back to give a shout out to other survivors, to link arms with those who have been there or who are currently there, to share the hope of a bright future.
The FREEDOM that was given me on October 20th, 1996 was a second chance.
It was, honestly, nothing short of a gift from God. To Him be the glory for all the healing that has happened deep within, for the spiritual growth, for the opportunities that have come to me since…
I have found new FREEDOM in the love and acceptance of my Heavenly Father. A freedom that deserves to be celebrated…
There are so many parts to this story, this chapter of my life. And I won’t really be able to tell the whole thing today – but there are parts & pieces rising to the surface that someone needs to hear. I share for that reason. I know that my testimony is empowering to others… and so I share it boldly to show God’s grace & mercy.
I had made a mistake and I couldn’t bring myself to admit it.
I ignored the signs that I should have paid attention to. I had this nagging feeling that I should have called off the wedding. I should have stood up more boldly for what I was worth. And yet here I was, March 26, 1994… 100% faking it – look at that last picture on the right.
100% pretending to know what I was doing… even though I was only 20 years old. I was in over my head and with ZERO idea what was getting ready to happen in my life.
Here I was, with all the people I should have been honest with… celebrating with my best friends and my family. Faking it. And I faked it hard. I faked it with my co-workers. I faked it with my friends & family. I even faked it with him.
But my FREEDOM came in the moment I opened the door and saw the empty apartment. Freedom flooded me when I realized that I had lost it all and didn’t have to fake it any longer. Freedom came in the moment I knew I wouldn’t have changed any of it… because these trials made me a stronger woman, the lessons learned through this chapter of my life were invaluable, the resolve I discovered inside myself was PRICELESS! And so I share my story on this day annually. I look back to celebrate the good in my life, to encourage others who are stuck in a similar place, and to offer hope.
Friend – you are not alone. And you don’t have to fake it with me.
I have celebrated 25 freedom days since 1996. Lots of reminiscing happens on this day every year. Lots of hearing from others who have gone through this as well. I live in deep gratitude today.
You are not alone, friend. You might feel alone. But you are not. You may not be feeling “celebratory” today – but know that you are not alone. You will feel free again. You will build again. You will be victorious again.
You will break through what is holding you down. You will laugh again. You will dream again.
Wanna chat about it? I’m here for you.
And I will be cheering you on the whole way…