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Today marks three years since I last saw hubby’s daughter. I expected to feel it most at the weekend because it actually happened on a Friday evening, and the last two years I have found myself running through the events as they happened. But I guess dates can have a significant impact too because this year I didn’t feel it so much. It was there in my mind but it’s today that I finally feel some connection.

As I travelled into work today I let my mind wander. I found myself remembering my therapy sessions, which revolved a lot around my step-daughter. I now realise just how far I have come since then. I have finished my degree without breaking, which I am so proud of. Back then most people – except hubby 🙂 – advised me to give it up or at least take a break. I’ve started a new, responsible job and so far I’m doing OK and enjoying it. In the last six months I’ve written an essay and got a distinction for it, passed an exam, got a merit for a course I hated, applied for and got a job, started that job and written my dissertation at the same time. Basically, I’ve carried lots of stress and come out whole and stable (albeit with renewed periodic cravings for cigarettes).

But more than that, far more that that, I barely recognise myself now. I’ve come so far and today I find myself thanking God for what he has done in me. It has taken a memory of searing, devastating loss to show me how God has healed me. The blogposts back then were filled with anger, sadness and shame. I felt that she had destroyed me. I couldn’t forgive her and I hated myself.

I have forgiven her and I no longer hate myself. She hurt me beyond measure and when my therapist tried to guide me through my memories of that night and others before it, I couldn’t connect. Those memories have lost their hold on me now. I no longer curl up inside, filled with self-loathing, humiliation and agony. I’ve been freed.

As I write this I feel tears starting to sting my eyes and a tight throat, but also a smile. What is that? I’m looking back on a relationship lost, and not one relationship but five because I lost her children too, but I’m smiling. And I think this is joy. God has freed me not only from the shame of my step-daughter’s bullying but also from the chains that held me for so many years after the school bullies had their fun. The joy is found in the image I have in my head now of a woman turning in a circle with her arms open, looking up to the heavens, a radient smile on her face. The joy is found in the intense compassion I have for people who hurt, the compassion which makes me hurt when they hurt and drives me to love. The joy is found in knowing peace even in the sadness of losing people I love and of losing people I could have loved when I realised we would not be able to foster or adopt. The joy is found in knowing that the core of me can never be destroyed no matter how many people hurl insults at me. The joy is found in today’s realisation that I no longer believe the lies said to me. The joy is found in loving the people who surround me now.

There’s a next step though, that I can see but have not yet been able to take. When God answered my prayers so powerfully the night hubby became a Christian I knew without doubt that he can answer any prayer. He can restore this broken, torn down relationship. I don’t yet have the faith to do anything about this. I’m even hesitant to say that I hope I will one day have the faith, because hoping is close to praying and praying means God will poke me until I get up and do something, risking all.

I know I’ll ruminate on this all day, because joy is mingled with sadness and fear. I can see God’s presence in it all now and that’s why I thank him. He was able to take such desolation and teach me about himself through it. I’ve often learned about God most in the worst times. He can use me now in ways he never could have before I lost so much. It’s completely inexplicable and so wonderful.

I’m aware that I’ve made some very bold statements in this post, and that I’ve written in the past tense. God has freed me, healed me. I’m not saying that he has finished his work in me. I still slip back into the metaphorical self-flagellation. I panic easily, worry during the nights, get dragged down by self-doubt, find it hard to show vulnerability and honesty in friendships. I forget, that’s all it is. It is so tempting to slip back, it’s easier that way. Old habits die hard, after all. But I’ll get there. That’s why today, on a day that could bind me in chains all over again, today I declare the freedom that comes from Jesus.

Where the spirit of the Lord is
There is freedom
Where the spirit of the Lord is
There is freedom

Lift Your eyes to heaven
There is freedom
Lift Your eyes to heaven
There is freedom

Freedom reigns in this place
Showers of mercy and grace
Falling on every face
There is freedom

If You’re tired and thirsty
There is freedom
If You’re tired and thirsty
There is freedom

Give Your all to Jesus
Give him all, there is freedom
Give Your all to Jesus
There is freedom

Freedom reigns in this place
Showers of mercy and grace
Falling on every face
There is freedom

If your burden’s heavy
He brings freedom
If your burden’s heavy
He brings freedom

If you’re hurt and broken
He brings freedom
If you’re hurt and broken
He brings freedom

Freedom reigns in this place
Showers of mercy and grace
Falling on every face
There is freedom

Great is Your faithfulness
Great is Your faithfulness

Freedom reigns in this place
Showers of mercy and grace
Falling on every face
There is freedom

My Jesus reigns in this place
Showers of mercy and grace
Falling on every face
There is freedom

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