The Sunday that my 15-year-old daughter, Leilani, was at camp, it was Father’s Day. Had it not been, I wonder if the truth would have ever come out and if our lives might still be the same.
The camp director created an event out of the holiday, urging the kids to honor their fathers and after several spoke about their dads glowingly, the pressure began to build on Leilani’s heart...until she just couldn’t hold it anymore.
That is when I got a call from a friend of mine who is the wife of a pastor from the church hosting the camp—and she wasn’t calling to chat. “Tashawni, please come over to my house right away,” she spoke urgently into the phone.
“I’m with my husband and dad. Can it wait?”
My husband, Leilani’s stepfather, had molested her regularly between the ages of 11 and 13. She had told a counselor and from there it made its way to the pastors and then to my friend. And just like that, my world came apart.
And just like that, my world came apart.
My husband, who I loved desperately, and so did my three kids, admitted his awful act against Leilani, and began to pack his belongings immediately. He wasn’t going to get very far. It was in the hands of the authorities who tracked him down. He is now serving a 10-year sentence.
But on that one single Father’s Day, I lost my best friend and love, became a single mom to three, and would soon, upon losing his income, have to find a way to keep us alive on my $2,500 monthly paycheck. But those are the details of my life. The details of my heart and soul are harder to articulate. My heart bottomed out so badly it called into question everything I knew, as if nothing is what it seems and no good feeling can be trusted. When everything is taken away, your hands, feet, and head feel like useless appendages unable to offer your heart what it needs most—comfort, peace, and quiet. Everything hurts. It hurts to breathe. It’s painful to wake-up. It aches to think—and yet you must. I had three pain-stricken kids to tend to.
The thoughts of what Leilani must have gone through as an innocent child would keep me up at nights; the regular horror that she endured in silence just so she wouldn’t break up our marriage knowing how much I loved him, would cut me to the quick. Such horrors were so bad they actually compelled her to slug him in the face on his final affront—the only reason why the molestations stopped when she was 13.
To stay above the surface and avoid emotionally slipping beneath I would play worship music from the moment the day began to the moment it was time to drift off to sleep. I would need the constant reminder that our God was worthy of his people’s praise even when I didn’t feel like it. The music became my rudder. I lived by every word. They told me how I felt and how I would feel if I could just hold on.
And then came the singing. I sang to stay alive and my kids followed suit. All day long, every chance we could we would sing at the top of our lungs with our voices filling the room and bursting out the windows. It is a miracle that no one ever called the cops to our tiny apartment. There we were, on our knees, hands raised and worshipping louder and louder still, to scatter the demons who were trying to force us down. We were like a tape stuck on a constant loop. It was our only defense against the aggressive and relentless feeling of being alone and forgotten.
In time, our hearts began to heal as God provided for our physical needs, our emotional needs—everything. The amazing thing about that time is that the worship was not an in-the-meantime placation of our souls. We were being shaped by every word; changed at the core to depend completely on God. And it felt, and feels, so good. Dependence, the giving up of all control is the most soothing, most eternally beautiful thing we could have ever imagined.
Today we are walking strong in God and feeling his healing hand every day. And just like the angels in heaven, we continue to sing praises to the only one beautiful enough to deserve it.
God I look to you, I won't be overwhelmed.
Give me vision to see things like You do.
God I look to You, You're where my help comes from.
Give me wisdom, You know just what do.
I will love you Lord my strength.
I will love You Lord my Shield.
I will love You Lord my Rock.
Forever all my days I will love You God.
Hallelujah our God reigns.
God I look to you
©Bethel music, Francesca Battistelli, CCLI