“I am so angry” I kept repeating to myself as my paint brush moved back and forth over the chalky cupboards. The closer I looked at my walls, from floor to ceiling, the more I found holes, streaky paint, and incomplete work. I was livid.
The music in the background played one of my favorite songs “Here comes the sun” by the Beatles. I carefully moved the fridge away from the wall, getting on my ladder, reaching beyond myself to get the hidden pieces of trim that suffered from sloppy work.
The week before I had made the decision to let my money work for me. I hired a licensed company to come in and paint my kitchen, remove some mold and patch the crack in the ceiling. I used my big girl voice, gathered estimates, recommendations and asked questions. I did my homework. My sweet little home needed a face lift, and I trusted them to do this.
These men, took advantage of me, purchased things without my knowledge, and never returned to my home to finish the work. There were bags of trash left in my backyard and dishes damaged. I was devastated. After tallying up the ways they had stolen from me – I put on my big girl panties and asked for a refund. Thru text and e-mail I showed them line by line what they stole. With each protest they presented I held my ground, and my request. Me and my home were threatened “I don’t feel safe here, in my own home!”, I cried as I read the disdain and attempts to bully. I had the conciliation form to take action, and ready to go! “Was this the drastic measure I should take for my boundary?” I knew there was no right answer. Apart from my abusive marriage, this was the first interaction I had with OTHER men completely resistant to a woman’s voice and didn’t try to hide it! I could feel the patriarchy bleeding out from the computer screen as I read their scary words.
My marriage had taught me well – I knew how to deal with a narcissist. In the end, I chose not to use emotional energy on a lawsuit that may take months or years, and the Lord gave me justice in other ways. True power is knowing that sometimes it is right to use our voice to speak words of force and truth, but other times there is power and truth in our SILENCE. I chose the latter. I would not give these men ONE more ounce of my power. I held it tightly, knowing I was unmovable.
At the same time this was shaking my world, I received a letter in the mail from my family system. It was devastating. “Lord, seriously?! Add it to the list!” I sat in the parking lot at ACE Hardware store, weeping. I immediately texted my friend and her comforting words reminded me, “Don’t be alone right now, who can be with you right now?” “You chose YOU and left an entire toxic system. That’s powerful!” She helped calm the storm rising up in my own body and brought me back to 2021, in my Prius, dog food and paint cleaner in the back seat.
I spent the rest of the evening crying off and on until my swollen little face couldn’t take anymore. I went to a place where I felt belonging. They let me just ‘be sad’, they snuggled me, listened and held me as I cried. They reminded me I was not alone. They didn’t try to cheer me up, only assured me of my value, through their actions. They were Jesus’ heart towards me that night and I was warmed and thankful.
There I was Sunday morning, worship music filling up the air as I stood in the door frame of my kitchen. It felt good to take a day and let my body grieve and be sad. My family will always be a painful loss. As survivors we are often tempted to “go back” when things get tough, because we want someone to rescue us from hard things. This “well-timed” letter was spiritual warfare in an already stressful time. I had lost a lot of money, while working to finish my kitchen. My old self tried to convince me, “call your brother and dad – they could do this work in their sleep and it would just be easier.” My adult, mature self knew “I had other people to help me fight my fear. I was my own knight in shining armor, and nothing was EVER worth it to go back to a toxic system.” I let those urges pass as I played that version of reality forward in my head. “Nope! I can do this – I am perfectly capable.“
Tears spilled out as my shaky voice declared out loud, “Jesus I know you would be here painting with me, you are here. I can see you over by the window moving your paint brush back and forth, chatting, smiling and laughing with me as we work. You wouldn’t be here just because I need to get this done. You would be here because you delight in me. Painting would be an opportunity to spend time with me, get to know each other more. Feel the joy that comes from quality time together. You would just be. I feel you here now, dipping your brush for another coat of paint and telling me the next part of your story. I’m not alone.”
I crouched down to the floor to cover pieces of door frame with thick white paint. Mesmerized by my brush I began to recount the goodness I had collected despite evil’s attempt to separate me, yet again from the love that allows me to breathe.
The day before, I had blasted a text to my core SHEROES and told them of my plight. Prayers, empathy, words of comfort and understanding dripped from my phone. A small financial donation to the painting supplies needed to fix this damage, beautiful quotes for a moment of peace within chaos, “How are you doing with your kitchen?” meant the world to me! Pictures of scripture, “I’m reading Psalm 10 this morning, Rochelle, and it was written just for you 3,000 years ago!”
The collection of goodness caused me to melt into my Fathers lap, lean into his chest and know that I am okay. With each brush stroke I felt bolder, more confident, empowered, and supported. I was writing the narrative of this situation. The anger and rage pushed out from my paint brush and onto the wall. These men crossed MY threshold and brought evil in with them. They impacted the energy in my home – a place where I felt safe and calm. I remembered the image of Gandalf from the Lord of the Rings, striking down his staff and yelling “YOU SHALL NOT PASS!” I am TAKING BACK whatever evil has disrupted my home.
I remembered that my God is the freaking GOD OF ANGEL ARMIES and HE encamps ANGELS around me. God as mother, is like a MAMA BEAR protecting her cub and says, “I will shred those who touch my baby. She is my daughter and you will be owed what you gave to her.” The mother engulfs me under the feathers of her wings and I am safe. The moments of memories I have with God in these specific ways, made my heart swell as I cried tears of STRENGTH and GRATITUDE.
The Lord LITERALLY went before me and behind me. It was Sunday, here I am in my kitchen absolutely boggled at what God had already done. He ALREADY redeemed my situation, you see: on Monday I was at the tippy top of elation! I had won the Teacher of the Year Award, which came with a financial gift. The amount would cover the injustice of loss that I had accrued 4 days later!
The Lord was truly “working all things together for my good” out of something that was pure evil. He didn’t stop at physical finances. He went deeper, exposing seeds of distorted beliefs that still run rampant through my body. Cutting like a scalpel he removed another layer of flesh: fear of others’ opinion and conflict, saying yes when my body says “NO” out of fear of the other. This is a big one for me and it is a work in progress.
Relationally the Lord provided healing to show me what the opposite looks like. Someone I love very much helped to strengthen my voice and for the first time in my life I experienced what it means to have a good man come alongside a STRONG woman and advocate WITH HER for her needs and wants. He did not crush my voice – he made my voice LOUDER. This man used his male privilege in a patriarchal society, to embolden the voice and rights of a woman. “Guys”, he spoke boldly, “we like your work so far, that is not the issue. Rochelle is exhausted, you cannot be painting in her home until 10:00 at night – when I see her not being treated well, I have to step in. Please work only from 9 – 5, show up on time and when you tell her you are coming. You need to communicate with her and you need to finish your work.”
After witnessing this phenomenon I wept. This facilitated more grief. I had never been treated SO valuable that a man would speak for my rights and lift up my own boldness. My OWN father could not use his male privilege in a church OOZING out patriarchy to protect his daughter. He chose religion and image over defending her heart.
Yet, here I sat listening to this sweet man recount his interaction with the painters in detail…. He did this over PAINT?!! I mattered, I have value that is worth protecting. My brother and my dad don’t know, but I knew this in myself and so did the man in my corner.
I was astounded at the meticulous work of the Lord to provide an OPPOSITE EXPERIENCE inside a relationship to facilitate healing. It is JUST like him to do so! It was an opportunity to practice new behavior no matter how awkward and scary it felt. I KNEW what I wanted to say to them and how to hold them accountable, this man just gave me a push and acted as the wind beneath my sail.
This is resilience.
All weekend long conversations with God as father, mother and my dear friend Jesus ensued. As I moved through the kitchen I could feel that joy that comes from the deepest cavern in your being. It bubbled up and in the midst of a storm I felt peace inside my covenant.
When things are exposed in our own lives, after abuse, we need to say good-bye to the protection attempts by parts of ourselves that are still separated from our core. People pleasing and fear of conflict, my 13-year old Rochelle knew all about it. She learned quickly that her only job was “to be kind, sweet, and to be quiet”. She was not allowed to explore other cultures, religions, music, ways of living, question the status quo or confront evil behavior when she saw it in her home. (even though she tried) Her words and thoughts were constantly crushed and trampled with a voice that was louder than hers. So eventually, she stopped talking.
This was an opportunity for me as a nurturer to speak to 13 year old (with help from a beautiful soul), and tell her “You don’t have to protect me anymore. You did such a good job surviving in your home, you stayed quiet in order to be safe. That was wise, but now I have become a woman. And you know what? When you grow up your voice is going to be loud! Your voice will be valued, it will speak for the forgotten. It will speak life into women and children, it will help others build a team and stay the course, it will lead. In fact, your voice will be valued so much you will win an award! You get to be a kid now. NO ONE will step on your words. Thank you for your help, now you can go and do all the talking you want. Do all the pre-teen things you were meant to do.”
She walks with a stack of books in her arms and a smile on her face. She sees Jesus at the shore of the beach. “Jesus, do you want to come and read with me?” He turns to her and smiles that smile. They walk to the blanket in the sand – she pours over the books and asks questions about life, culture, time, and opinions that she struggles to form. She builds confidence in her own ideas as Jesus listens. He hears her with understanding, openness, while engaging in the conversation. He asks her thought provoking questions as He stares off into the water. He loves to hear the sound of her voice because she is important. Her words are important. He delights in her questions with no condemnation, judgment or criticism. Her ideas are important.
This is resilience.
I started the week at the top of the Mountain and by Saturday was plunged down to the depths of despair. I had grown and I could feel it. No award or thief could separate me from the LOVE that allows me to breathe the air of true joy. I knew that God was not punishing me, I knew that He had not left my side, and this was a huge growth for me in the face of adversity. I collected moments of goodness, I cried for help to fight the fear, I never lost my voice nor myself.
This is resilience.
Post-traumatic growth takes time. It takes real-life experiences and relationships to practice engaging with our adult self. It’s two steps forward and one step back, yet even in despair the moments of goodness are there, we have only to collect them along the way.
YOU, my love, are a fighter and the God of Angel Armies is on your side:
As I survived my week, my fellow soujourner’s directed me to Psalms chapter 9 – 12, I hope it will strengthen your resolve as much as it did mine.
You are not alone.
Arise, Lord! Lift up your hand, O God.
Do not forget the helpless.
13 Why does the wicked man revile God?
Why does he say to himself,
“He won’t call me to account”?
14 But you, God, see the trouble of the afflicted;
you consider their grief and take it in hand.
The victims commit themselves to you;
you are the helper of the fatherless.
15 Break the arm of the wicked man;
call the evildoer to account for his wickedness
that would not otherwise be found out.
I will give thanks to you, Lord, with all my heart;
I will tell of all your wonderful deeds.
2 I will be glad and rejoice in you;
I will sing the praises of your name, O Most High.
3 My enemies turn back;
they stumble and perish before you.
4 For you have upheld my right and my cause,
sitting enthroned as the righteous judge.
5 You have rebuked the nations and destroyed the wicked;
The Lord is a refuge for the oppressed,
a stronghold in times of trouble.
10 Those who know your name trust in you,
for you, Lord, have never forsaken those who seek you.
11 Sing the praises of the Lord, enthroned in Zion;
proclaim among the nations what he has done.
12 For he who avenges blood remembers; He does not ignore the cries of the afflicted.