Warrior's Voice

Giving Way to My Voice

‘Daddy, why are you so angry? Why do you have to hit me with a belt? If I promise I won’t do it again, do you have to hit me with the belt?’

‘Why does mommy lock herself in the bathroom and cry?’

‘Mommy, what’s wrong? I’m sorry that daddy hit Bill. I’m sorry that Bill made him mad.’

‘Mommy, why does daddy hit us with a belt? It hurts when he hits our backs and our legs.’

‘Get married? I don’t want to get married. I don’t even know if I want to keep the baby.’

‘I don’t want to look at porn. Aren’t I enough? Why do you want to look at that woman instead of at me while we are making love? How is it love, if you need to look at them having sex?’

‘I believe you are the head of the home, the man of the family. I believe that God put you there for a reason. You can make all of the big decisions, but why does that mean I have no say? Can’t I tell you how I feel, why I think what you are about to do is not a good decision for our family?’

‘Wait, you want me to do what?’

‘You want me to be naked in front of a camera that other men are going to be watching?’

‘It’s okay, because it is in our marital room and we both agree to it? What if I don’t agree?’

A running list scrolls through my mind as I lay awake at night. I should be sleeping, but I cannot.

Why do I want to write this book?

The question people ask me. The question I ask myself. The need for a simple answer haunting me again. ‘I need to create an elevator speech’, I tell myself for the umpteenth time. A well thought, canned response to the burning question everyone asks.

‘You deserve better than him.’

‘He shouldn’t speak to you that way.’

‘Don’t listen to his words. You are smart. You are beautiful. You have the potential to do great things.’

I have said these things to girls, women I have come across while out for a walk. From a distance I hear her boyfriend, her partner, ridicule her, defiling her with words of hatred. Tearing her down, beating her into submission, not for the first time nor for the last.

I should remain quiet. Mind my own business. I can’t.

I must speak out. I have to defend her. I need to be that person who will speak up for her, to her. Oh, how I longed for someone to speak up for me. To tell me, he was wrong. His words were wrong, I didn’t deserve to be treated that way. No woman deserved to be treated that way. It was not because of my sin. It was not because my heart was not right with God.

If I don’t speak up, who will?

If I give it too much thought, it overwhelms me. I cannot possibly save them all. I understand many do not want to be saved. Some do not know, yet, their need to be saved. Rescued. Many, so many, have tried to leave, only to return. Leaving is hard, unbelievably hard. Going back is easier. I know. How do you help those who do not want to be helped? How do you find those who need and want to be helped? Once you find them, how do you possibly help them? Their needs, all very different, are more than I could take on.

It would be easier to go forward in my own life. To count my blessings and move on. To accept if I am needed, if they come to me, then I will help, if I am able.

Easier.

It was easier to go back. It was easier to stay. Easier to live with the hidden knowledge that I would most likely die. By his hand or my own.

It was harder to leave. Scarier to step out. Difficult to accept that leaving was my only chance to ever know if what I believed, what I questioned, was right, or wrong.

I left. I survived. I am alive.

That should be enough. Only, it’s not.  A purpose burns within me. It began as the smoldering embers of the fire that destroyed me. The fire of his words. The fire of his beatings. The destruction, the mayhem my daughter and I endured. Furniture broken, plates smashed against walls, hair pulled, evil spewed from his mouth, day after day. The flames put out when we escaped, not turning back, in the middle of the night, one last leaving, never to return.

The embers remain, smoldering, white hot, a reminder of all we survived. His words, his abuse reduced to ash, still there, in our hearts and our minds. For years a reminder, giving me strength to continue on, no turning back. The flames sparked when fear crept in, only to be put out once again through therapy sessions, through new found understanding, healing and love. Fear turned to anger a less vulnerable emotion. Anger raged within, crying out for resolution. Resolution, brought healing, forgiveness. Forgiveness, releasing me from the grip of my past. My pain, my hurt, my shame.

And yet, the embers, the ash remain. Eighteen years later, still there. Time heals all wounds, they say. My physical wounds have healed. Much of my emotional wounds have healed. The embers there, inside my heart, lingering inside my soul are giving way to my voice. They glow when I see abuse, when I fall into my own anger, they ignite when I write. The cries within me, silenced for years, rising up, longing to be heard, to be shared, to fulfill a purpose I have shied away from.

Telling my story, is not to shame my ex-husband. It is not to destroy him. He is but a human with faults and pain of his own. Telling my story is not to hurt his parents, his family, those who knew him. Many of them are family to me, to this day, people I admire, people I love, deeply. Telling my story is not to shame my family, my parents who are deceased, my siblings, who are alive and do not understand my need to share, to tell our family secrets. Telling my story is not for sympathy. I do not long for any one to feel sorry for me.

Telling my story, sharing my life, is to give way to my voice. If my voice can help one woman, awaken her inner voice, strengthen her to get help, to leave, to live. If my voice can help one child, open the eyes and ears of someone in their life who can extend the help they need. If my voice can awaken a young girl seeking love in all the wrong places. If my voice can open the eyes of an abuser to seek help, or a friend to call the abuser out. If my voice can open your eyes to the abuse around you and compel you to use your voice to help even one victim. If my voice can do that, then I must give way to my voice.

 

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May the embers of my soul never go out. May they spark in me the fire to speak up, to speak out. May them embolden me extend help to someone in need. May they live on, in others, long after I am gone.

Writing For The Moment

It’s Okay if You Hate Me

He sat on the floor, his back against the dark wood dresser in his bedroom. His legs drawn up to his chest, his eyes cast down, not that he could see me anyway. He had responded to my voice.

 

“Daddy, what did you do?”

 

“Oh Kristi, it’s terrible, just terrible.”

 

“What daddy, come on, it will be okay. It’s always okay.” I stepped into my parents bedroom and then stopped.

 

The air was still as the room grew dark. Day was ending, the sun going down. The bedside lamp remained off. My sister had once again been reading to our father in the afternoon. The noise of my playing and mom cooking in the kitchen the reason they had went to his bedroom. Dad needed it to be quiet when she read to him. He was studying for a college course. His limited eyesight made the reading assignments drone on. Having my sister read to him made it go much faster. I hated how it took away our play, my sister and I loved to play together.

 

“Not this time, bug.” My father hiccuped as tears rolled down his cheeks.

 

“It’s okay if you hate me. It’s okay if you never forgive me.” He pulled his knees tighter to his chest.

 

“Oh daddy, of course I forgive you! I could never hate you!” I rushed to him, knelt down and wrapped my seven year old arms around his neck.

 

Warm tears dropped onto my neck as his body quivered with each breath. I hugged him tight promising I would not let go.

 

He hiccuped again, his arms not leaving his knees. I hugged him. He didn’t hug me.

 

“I don’t hate you daddy. I promise, I won’t hate you.”

 

“Kristi, I’d like you to go in your room for a while. The police officers need to speak to your father.” My mom had come in and flipped on the light.

 

I gave my father one more squeeze and got up to leave. My mother tossled my hair as I passed by. I looked up at her face, the corners of her mouth turned down, her lips stretched tight. The wrinkles on her forehead creased deep. She looked tired. Very tired.

 

Before I crossed the hallway to my room I peeked in my sister’s open doorway. Prone on her bed, face planted in her pillow, her sobs muffled.

 

“Lisa?”

 

“Lisa, are you okay?”

 

“Go away.”

 

“Sis, I’m here. No matter what it is, it’s going to be okay. Come on, tell me what’s wrong.”

 

“I can’t. You wouldn’t understand.” Between a plugged and runny nose and the pillow it was hard to make out her words.

 

“What did you say? I can’t hear you?”

 

“I said go away, you wouldn’t understand. You’re too little.” She lifted her head long enough to cut into my heart with her words.

 

“I’m not too little! I can listen. You just need to talk to me!” I stomped out of my sister’s bedroom and went into my own. One of the few times I was thankful I no longer shared a room with her.

 

My doll was on my bed. I grabbed her and a brush and began tugging it through tangled hair. I heard voices and foot steps coming down the hallway. Two officers in blue uniforms walked past my door. My mom passed by and pulled my door closed. I could hear them talking, deep voices, but I couldn’t make out what they were saying.

 

“What do you think the officers want, Molly?” I asked my doll as I continued brushing her golden hair. Strands of white, yellow and gold, with a hint of red mixed in her lovely hair.

 

“Do you think my daddy did something so bad the police men came? I don’t know what he did. Maybe Lisa did something bad, she sure is crying a lot.”

 

I stopped brushing, the brush once again stuck in my doll’s hair. Patiently, I pulled each strand out at a time, trying not to pull them out of her head altogether.

 

Rolling closet doors creaked breaking the silence. I strained to hear. Slipping off my bed, I tip-toed to the door. The adults spoke in hushed whispers. I pressed my ear against the door.

 

“Just wear what you have on…….” it was a man’s voice, I didn’t recognize.

 

“Mr. Espe, it’s time to go. Mrs. Espe, you can follow us to the station or come down in the morning. Here is my card, you can call me direct for information.” Another deep voice. I waited for my mom to speak.

 

I pressed my face harder against the worn door, my cheek burning from rubbing the wood. Shuffling sounds, sniffling, whomever was outside my door was crying. Feet stepped past and someone bumped into my door from the hallway.

 

“Lisa, Please go down the street to your grandma’s and tell Bill what is going on. He needs to come home, now.” My mother’s voice quivered as she spoke.

 

Why did my sister have to go get our brother? Why didn’t Bob, our oldest brother go? Lisa was so sad. I should go with her. But mom told me to go to my room. She didn’t say I could come out yet. I wish I knew what was going on out there.

 

The hallway grew silent. I sat down on the floor, my back against the bedroom door. I held my dolly tight against me.

 

“Molly, why do think daddy said it was okay if I hate him?”

 

(Excerpt from: ‘That is NOT Okay!”)

 

Copyright © 2018 by Kristina Lyn Reddy

 

All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, distributed, or transmitted in any form or by any means, including photocopying, recording, or other electronic or mechanical methods, without the prior written permission of the publisher, except in the case of brief quotations embodied in critical reviews and certain other noncommercial uses permitted by copyright law. For permission requests, write to the publisher, addressed “Attention: Permissions Coordinator,” at the address below.

 

Reddy 2 Write
P.O. Box 33933
Seattle, WA 98133

Writing For The Moment

A Sticker Back in Time

No sooner had I lay the sticker on the window sill and I was back in my grandmother’s kitchen. Her kitchen window that looked out upon the back yard amidst the crowded view brought on by vases of dandelions, wishing weeds, and other long since died flowers. Gifts from her many grandchildren, all of which Grandma cherished. The window sill itself covered from edge to edge with vases, rocks – some painted, some not, stickers and other treasures. All framed in by simple cotton curtains that Grandma had sewn herself.

The cupboards were a dark wood, darker still around the edges where they were opened time and time again. In each cupboard resided an array of colorful dishes, burnt orange, avocado green, lemon yellow and chocolate brown ceramic mixing bowls in one. Tupperware containers with an assortment of lids, silver metal bowls, clear glass bowls, all used for the many foods that Grandma made for breakfast, lunch and dinner, whether it be for herself, us grandkids or for when she had c’mpany. The silverware drawer a hodge podge of utensils where a complete matching set was a treasure to be found. Many of the matching pieces long since buried in the backyard where the pirates kept their treasure hidden from the scoundrels that came searching.

The vinyl floor beneath my feet bearing the evidence of a well lived in and loved home. A place where one was always welcome no matter the reason, the length of stay, nor the conversation or lack thereof you were to give. Crumbs from graham crackers scattered in a trail leading to the back door, drips of bacon grease from the stove to the kitchen counter where an emptied pickle jar now full with hardened grease awaited to be used for fried eggs, brussels sprouts, and other things that tasted better when fried in bacon grease. A red stain, most likely Kool-Aid, that would never come clean, not even if Grandma were to get down on her tired well used knees to scrub it.

The washer and dryer at the end of the kitchen covered with baking pans, cookie sheets, and more bowls looking for a home, waiting to be used. I look closer, there on the right were two pans being used. Covered with linen dish towels. Quietly sneaking over, not making a sound as my sock feet slid one step length at a time, I lift the towel to reveal pies. The steaming warmth wafts the heavenly smell of freshly baked strawberry rhubarb into my nostrils as I inhale, deep, slow.

A noise startles me and I glance to the window in the back door. I sweep back the curtain, also made by my grandma but with a fabric that does not match the one over the sink. I see myself, a younger me all of about 8 years old. My hair is a much darker auburn red, thick, bushy, frizzy, not curly but not straight, a mass of deep fire framing my freckled face. I am running breathless across the back yard being chased by my cousin, Mikey. My sister, Lisa, and my other cousin, Bobby, are both running in the other direction. I dash through the clothes drying on the line just barely out of Mikey’s reach. A smile spreads across my face as the warmth of remembering time with my cousins wells up from within.

I turn and walk through the kitchen to the living room knowing what I will see. The TV is on with the sound turned down low, almost off. There is my grandma in her rocking chair with two large bowls vying for space in her generous lap. Her slippered feet just touching the ground gently nudge the floor to keep the rhythm of the rocker going as she snips the ends of green beans fresh off the vine from her backyard garden. The trimmed beans being prepared for canning. I listen closely so I can hear the song coming from my grandma’s mouth.

“Blessed assurance Jesus is mine!

Oh, what a foretaste of Glory Divine!

Heir of salvation, purchased by God

Born of His Spirit, washed in His blood

Oh, this is my story, this is my song,

Praising my Savior, all the day long;

This is my story, this is my song,

Praising my Savior, all the day long……”

I can hear her voice, the one that soothed my fears, my worries, my broken heart, lulled me to sleep, and filled my life with so much unconditional love. The safe haven of my childhood remains in my mind and in my heart.

I look again and I see the sticker on the counter next to my kitchen window that overlooks my backyard, so different than my grandma’s. My counter is clear of dirty dishes that I just washed and put in the drying rack. As I look around I see a few objects that at times I think of putting away to remove the clutter. A ceramic dish that holds my rings created by the young hands of my son, painted in shades of green and red, it does not fit the decor but it fits my heart. An empty bottle formerly filled with Smoking Loon Cabernet, now holds lamp oil, a wick threaded through a cork, the memory of a weekend away with the one who would one day become my husband, the father of my son and the adopted father of my first-born. A noise pulls me from my thoughts to look out my kitchen window upon my own backyard.

There I find my son running through the yard, a soccer ball at his feet. The neighbor boy, a few years younger than he, eagerly trying to steal the ball away before Michael can score a goal. He slides and they both tumble to the ground in a fit of laughter. A smile spreads across my face as new memories fill my very being.