I was raised Presbyterian and attended church regularly with my mother and siblings. I was active in the youth group and even became a leader of the youth group when I was in high school. I think that leadership experience prepared me to be the leader I am today.
After marriage and my kids were born, life got too busy for God. We moved to Virginia and never found a church home. My husband was Catholic but didn’t actively practice his religion. We drifted emotionally and philosophically from our faith. But my faith was reinvigorated on the worst night of my life.
It was Thursday in June, when I had worked the night shift, taken a nap, officiated my kids’ swim meet, and then drove overnight to surprise my mother at her vacation home in New York. After a 10-hour drive from our home in Virginia, I arrived around 8:30 a.m., excited to be at my girlhood vacation spot on the beach. Mom was selling the home and this was likely my last time out there. I had taken my son with me, but my daughter had a 4-H horse camp trip planned for the weekend; so she stayed home with her Dad.
My son, mother and I enjoyed the beautiful weather all day and went to the pier for dinner. By 8:00 p.m. I was starting to suffer the effects of sleep deprivation; so we went to bed around nine. My mom woke me up at 11:30 p.m. because a police officer was on the phone. My husband was under arrest for attempted sexual assault of a 13 year-old girl whom he had met online and was planning an encounter with her and my daughter.
My loving husband had been collecting pornography on his computer and had been sexually abusing our daughter for two years. This could not be real. I must be having a nightmare.
I thank the Lord that the 13 year-old girl was really an undercover agent working to stop child sexual abuse. My daughter had been spared the encounter; however, she was at the police station and needed to be picked up. I was 10 hours away.
In that one phone call, my entire reality was turned upside down. My loving husband had been collecting pornography on his computer and had been sexually abusing our daughter for two years. This could not be real. I must be having a nightmare. My husband wouldn’t, couldn’t, do that to his daughter. There was never any abuse in our household, or our family. Words cannot express the disbelief, confusion, anxiety, fear, panic I was feeling. And how was I going to get to my daughter?
I called my friend, who was like an aunt to my daughter. She picked her up from the police station. I was hysterical. I cried, sobbed, felt so surreal. The sleep deprivation probably didn’t help but I couldn’t decipher what was real. I had to get back home, but had only slept two hours in the past two days. I left my son with my Mom, who would drive him back to me in a couple of days, and I headed back to Virginia. I drove overnight in a hysterical state. I sobbed the entire drive. I was truly not in my right mind. Looking back on that night, I know the Lord was with me, co-piloting my car. I had so many thoughts rushing through my mind, I do not recall making the drive.
I arrived home after 9:00 a.m. My daughter had been taken by my friend to a social services appointment, as required, to begin the investigation of my involvement in her abuse. A search warrant had been issued the night before, and my house was in shambles.
The investigation took a couple of weeks. I was questioned numerous times. The social worker had to come into our home on multiple occasions to see the kids in their own environment. I didn’t return to work for six weeks, and began receiving counseling with the kids. I had to figure out the finances, because my husband had done all the bill-paying. I didn’t even know how far in debt we were.
I have never felt so alone, so disoriented, so devastated, so betrayed. By the end of summer, healing had begun. The kids went back to school and I returned to work. Bad news was everywhere. The kids’ friends would call them to look at the current events boards where newspaper articles were posted with their father’s face displayed. The local news had updates on the story every night, and it was always the top story: Nurse and ethicist charged with attempted child sexual abuse.” My boss told me I needed a squeaky-clean moral character to do my job, thus I shouldn’t be doing parts of my job. But I hadn’t done anything wrong. Why was this happening to me?!
I have never felt so alone, so disoriented, so devastated, so betrayed.
I came to realize that Virginia couldn’t be my home any longer. At some point during this time, I began to pray. It began the night of the long drive home, and somewhere along the way I turned back to God. I prayed for help because I didn’t even know what help looked like.
Looking back, once I had turned to God, things started to fall into place. I found a new job in another state that was perfect. I found a house that was perfect, without worrying whether I could afford it. I just knew it would be okay. I got the kids into good new schools, and most importantly, a new church found me.
The Pastor visited us at home. That meant the world to me. He told us about Hi-Club, and it reminded me of the wonderful times I had had in my youth group. At first my daughter resisted joining Hi-Club, but then something happened that I believe was divine intervention. Immediately after learning about Hi-Club, we stopped at a farmhouse to buy fresh eggs. We had never met the farm owners, but that day they were there and in the garage was a mommy cat and her kittens. After what my 14-year-old daughter had just been through, she desperately wanted a kitten. That was the bribe. I told her she could have a kitten if she joined Hi-Club.
I believe that the very worst event in my life was the result of drifting from God, and I firmly believe that after slapping me to get my attention, God has welcomed me back into His loving arms, and blessed me abundantly. I hope to never stray again.
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