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Wednesday, August 1, 2007

My Truth, My Reality--As I See It

Candace Jean Banks' Testimony…

  • My name is Candace Banks, I’ve been married to Kelly Banks for almost 6 years (interesting factoid: we got married 4 days after September 11, 2001…). We have 2 precious boys: Brendan (who just turned 4) and Corbin (who's 2 1/2)

  • Kelly and I grew up in Round Rock, Texas and have similar backgrounds… we've known each other since 1st grade, our parents are divorced and remarried parents, we were brought up in middle-class families, etc

  • One big difference in our upbringing is that I was raised in a very strict church family that I refer to as "Old School Church of Christ"… I lived in constant fear of going to hell, doing the wrong thing, etc. I knew that I was loved, but somehow things like grace, love, mercy, forgiveness were both not taught or spoken of.

  • My parents divorced when I was four…my older sister and I lived primarily with our mother. We saw John (please note that I will never refer to my birthfather as "dad"…so for all practical purposes and so that you can follow my story, I will refer to my birthfather as "John" or as my birthfather)…as I was saying, I saw John some weekends and holidays…and as I got older, I saw him even less. Almost immediately after divorcing my mother, John remarried a woman named Mollie. My Mom waited until I was in 5th grade to get remarried and she married a wonderful man who I do call my Father.

  • Time spent at John & Mollie's was about as different as possible from being at my Mom’s house…you could even compare the two to oil and water…

  • While my Mom’s parenting approach was "Hell, Fire, and Damnation"…or "putting the fear of God into you", John's approach to parenting was to let us learn about ourselves and the world around us freely and with as little parental guidance as possible. The little guidance that he did choose to give had to do with sex…John & Mollie were very open when it came to anything that had anything to do with sex and to say that they were exhibitionists would be an understatement. From the time they got married, they encouraged my sister and I to explore sex—all elements of it—from exploring and learning about bodies and how they work to encouraging us to look at their wide assortment of pornography whether alone, with them, and even with our friends.
    • One of the saddest parts about it is that it wasn't until just recently that I realized that I spent my formidable years being sexually abused my own flesh and blood. It is only by the grace of God that I have begun to realize that all the torment that I internalized from the things imposed on me were not my fault. It did, however, leave me with a very skewed idea of what sex is, should be, what God created it for, the beauty of it inside a marriage, etc.
    • While under John's supervision, I was sexually molested by a man that was renting a room out from him. When I told them what had happened, neither John or Mollie defended me or shielded me from his presence …and so this, along with many other inappropriate things that went on in that house led me to believe that men are not to be trusted. What did I learn? It's ok to use my body to have sex with men to feel important and loved. But are men to be trusted??...absolutely not.

  • My high school and college years were spent drinking, partying, letting my body get used by guys so that I'd feel what I thought was love and acceptance…I thought I was having fun, but I was actually very miserable..

  • Some people get into a "habit" of lying…well, I got myself into a habit of making bad decisions…and I don't mean eating an extra slice of cake bad decisions…the 1st in the series was getting married to a guy to get me out of a situation I wasn't happy being in (bad roommate, not sure how to continue paying for college, but most importantly b/c he was CoC)…one of the other lies I'd been told and believed is that only CoC'ers get to go to heaven so I must marry a CoC man…so when he offered, I accepted…I knew I was doing the wrong thing, but as I said before, I just couldn't seem to make a good decision. I remember right before I walked down the aisle thinking "I'm making a huge mistake"…but I was too afraid to back out. After about 2 months, I couldn't handle the turmoil going on in my mind and body and I left him—we were divorced a few months later.

  • Since I still didn't know anything about grace, I went wild again and made my next huge mistake…I got involved with a very controlling guy…and a few months after my divorce was final, "oooppppssssiiieee! I'm pregnant…" I spent the next nine months filled with guilt, horror, and most of all, embarrassment. Billy was so mentally and emotionally abusive that I felt I couldn't tie my shoes without asking for permission. And I knew that it wouldn't be long before things would progress to physical abuse—he was more than capable of it—he was a very angry person with a very short fuse.

  • By this time I felt sure that I was totally out of God's reach—the untouchable—little did I know that my precious Lord & Savior had a plan for me…while He was forming this sweet baby in my womb, he was also giving me the ability to trust Him.

  • On April 14, 1999, 37 weeks into my pregnancy, my daughter, Makenna, went home to be with Jesus. I was crushed…I was devastated…I was so empty…it hurt soooooo bad—the excruciating pain of a loss like that is completely indescribable…I begged and begged and begged God for the bravery to deliver Makenna and please, please, God let me hear her cry just once… and then I had to bury her…it was one of the most painful things I have ever experienced… I hurt so bad that I didn't care if I lived or died. And God did an amazing thing…He wrapped me in His arms and said "my precious child…I love you and I have not left you…you will someday see what I have planned for you"…it was the 1st of many times that I felt His presence..and through the strength that He gave me, I left Billy…

  • I wish I could tell you that losing Makenna changed me…that I no longer used alcohol and sex to escape from my world…but that isn't' the truth and wasn't my reality…Don't get me wrong, I tried…and at first, I tried really really hard…no sex—I promised myself and God that I would not do that again until I eventually got married one day. But the truth is that we are made of flesh and blood…God made us sexual beings…and you can't just erase the past, lust and desire don't just go away…and still at this time in my life I had no idea about grace…

  • What I didn't know at the time was that God was preparing me for something really huge—something even more life-changing for myself and another person…Kelly…

  • As I said before, Kelly and I have known each other a very long time… We didn’t hang out in jr high or high school and didn’t see each other for 5.5 years after high school…but when we did finally meet up again, the sparks flew!!! Kelly had come home before his last deployment with the Navy—and as always, God’s timing was perfect b/c I wasn’t in a relationship at the time. We flirted and hung out for maybe 12 hours before he headed back to California (that’s where his ship was docked). As soon as he got to CA, he called me and told me that he had to see me again before he deployed—would I come to CA during his last week???---I responded with a huge “yes!!”… During the few days we spent together in CA, we discussed everything important—from finances to our relationship with Christ, sex, money, kids—you name it, it was discussed. By the time I left, we knew we wanted to get married, and our “plan” was to have him go on his 6 month deployment, come home for a few months and let the “P’s” get used to the idea of us wanting to spend eternity together, and then get married….that’s NOT the way things went…a few months into Kelly’s deployment, Kelly emailed me and said, “I spoke to the Pastor on the ship and he said that if we really want to be married, there’s no reason we shouldn’t be…so how quick can you put a wedding together??”…. So, we broke the news of our “engagement” to our parents—Kelly via email and me very nervously in front of my parents (you might want to know that at this point in time, neither of us had met the other’s parents nor had they met each other). Regardless, I planned the wedding…Kelly came home at the end of August ’01 and we were married in September.

  • Our 1st years of marriage were chaotic, to say the least— In case you don't know, there's a list of "The most stressful life events" or something like that and we did pretty much everything.
    • We've bought three homes and sold two (but have moved a total of 8 times in less than 4 years!)
    • We've bought three dogs (one was put down for biting Corbin, another was given away for showing signs of aggression toward the kiddos)
    • Kelly got laid off from his 1st job after the Navy and started working at Home Depot plus going to school full time
    • We decided to have Kelly reenlist in the service—and he joined the Air Force
    • We moved to Abilene (away from all family and support)
    • We got pregnant three times and lost all of them
    • We adopted a child (Brendan)—an absolutely amazing story that we'll have to share later
    • ·We finally had a child naturally…but then spent5 days in the NICU at Cook's b/c Corbin stopped breathing on us—later diagnosed with seizures
    • The kiddos are seventeen months apart….whew!, but also "thank you, Jesus!!"
    • Brendan has been very challenging due to a significant speech delay--he's had pretty major behavior issues pretty much since he was about 8or 9 months old
    • ·Our sweet Corbin has been in and out of the ER and hospital so many times for some of the most random things including
      • being diagnosed with horrible reflux—part of this included having a severe reaction to the medicine they put him on—which sent us to the ER
      • swallowing CLR (that VERY strong cleaning fluid)—this put him in the hospital for a couple days,
      • a bee sting on the face that we thought was causing him to go into antiphilactic shock (another trip to the ER)
      • a severe case of the Rota Virus (another hospital stay)
      • being bit on the face by our dog—which turned into a staph infection
    • I was finally diagnosed with Fibromyalgia and Hypothyroidism
    • I was called at church one Sunday morning (Kelly was working weekends at the time) and told, “Mam, your husband’s been run over—we need you to get up to the hospital asap.”…as it turns out, he was pinned between a truck and a trailer, had his patella dislocated and a huge chunk of his thigh had been literally “scooped” out…this required rehab and eventually surgery.
    • I spent 10 days in River Crest…I'll get to that in a minute
    • And finally, Kelly will be deploying to Qatar shortly for six months

  • Now, because of all the "things" that I both did to myself and that others did to me, along with the medical conditions, I really believe I was beginning to die. My spirit was broken…I was so beaten, battered and bruised emotionally…I was depressed beyond recognition…I was in extreme physical pain caused by the fibromyalgia—everything hurt…and I mean everything—it hurt to hug my husband and kids, it hurt to sit or lie down, it hurt to smile—I literally felt like someone had taken a baseball bat to my entire body… You see, most people in this kind of pain are bedridden—but b/c we had two babies to take care of and no one to ask for help (no family close by, no close friends, no one close enough to me that I felt I could ask for help), I had to suck it up…I can tell you that it was a very miserable time of my life and that everything was suffering…my health, my relationship with Kelly, the kiddos…

  • I was slowly withering away…and it was then that God performed a miracle—He sent me to a MOPS conference to hear a lady give her testimony of how she tried to commit suicide—as she jumped off a bridge to end her life, a cop caught her arm and saved her…and it was hearing her story that saved my life...I realized that I was about to jump and if I didn't confess, there would be no one to catch me.

During the next few weeks I sank into a deeper and deeper hole of depression and despair. Thoughts of killing myself flooded my every waking moment. I wasn’t afraid of dying or even a little concerned about where I’d spend eternity—I knew God knew my heart--that He felt my pain as intimately and strongly as I was feeling it and He would have mercy on me.

  • It wasn't that I didn't love him or the kids or that I wanted to be away from them, it wasn't even that I wanted to die…it was just that I did not want to live if this is what life for me meant. Life for me was a living hell and I knew that I couldn't keep doing what I was doing. So I confessed to Kelly my plans…it was one of the hardest things I’ve ever done—to tell the person that I vowed to spend the rest of my life with that I was ready to end my life. But God was there with us in that room and instead of answering me with anger, Kelly ass loving and caring, gracious and merciful—he was able to respond this way only through the Holy Spirit. So, we made a “plan”—I was put on “suicide watch” until I could be admitted into River Crest.

  • I came home from River Crest ready t start over—I had read Joyce Meyer’s Battlefield of the Mind and the Bible a lot while in the hospital and was beginning to claim the love, grace, and mercy He has always offered to me. I was ready to do some serious healing and claim His Truth instead of Satan’s lies. I quickly fell backward, though, when I had a severe reaction to the medicines they put me on. It seemed I would take one step forward and two steps back. But God wasn’t willing to give up on me—He again opened another door…

  • This past April, I finally went on my Walk to Emmaus—and it was then that I laid it all before Him—all the guilt, shame, anger, unforgiveness, immorality, pain, suffereing… I invited Christ back into my life and asked Him to forgive me…and it was only then that I finally got a glimpse of His boundless grace, mercy, and love. He loves me. He forgives me. He embraces. He changes my name and calls me beautiful. He took His last breath on the Cross just for me. I was cleansed. I was purified. I was made alive and whole. And immediately my pain—all of my pain—was taken from me. Praise the Lord!!

  • Now, I wish I could say that the pain stayed away forever and the “high” that I felt that day never went away…but that isn’t my truth—it isn’t my reality. And I know that pain is never wasted…that through my testimony, others may be brought to Christ or maybe even healed—if only for a brief time…. I can tell you that because of the decisions I’ve made, because He has never left my side and because of my Walk to Emmaus, it’s easier to find joy in pain, give grace to others, be kind and merciful, and try to love unconditionally as He calls me to.

  • It’s now been nine months since my River Crest visit, I still have never stabilized…we just can't seem to get the medicines right and I've had reactions and changes that have been both unpleasant and frustrating….but I know that God is still working on me and through me…He has not given up on me and I am not giving up on myself.

  • Now remember back to that "laundry list" of events that I told you about…When I was reading them, you might've been thinking "why is she telling me all this??...I don't know whether to feel bad for her or to applaud her for persevering"…well, I can tell you with 100% certainty that if it wasn't for my precious husband, I wouldn't be standing here before you… on a daily basis my sweet Kelly shows me the things that no other man ever did…he exudes the Fruits of the Spirit…he encourages me to seek Christ first and foremost, to learn from my mistakes, to keep living. if I had not gone through these things with Kelly, and at this particular time in my life, I wouldn't have survived them…If I hadn't gone through this huge laundry list of things, I would not be the person I am today—someone who now knows about and lives in Christ's immeasurable grace, love, mercy, forgiveness…and that deserves a big AMEN & HALLELUJAH!!! (As Jerry Taylor says "help me somebody!")

  • If I had not gone through these things, I would not be able to share with you and others—almost on a daily basis--the way that Christ has blessed me…the way He stood beside me through it all…He never left me and He will never leave you. As a good friend often reminds me, God never wastes pain… My name (YOUR NAME) is "written on the palms of His hands"…I am created in His image…I am His and He calls me beautiful…He is the great physician—the healer of all—and I know that He will heal me…it just may not be until I see His magnificent face beyond the pearly gates

  • So, this is my story, my truth as I see it. It isn't perfect, but it's mine and I pray that by my telling my story, He will bless you as He has blessed me. I want to leave you with these two scriptures:

"As for God, his way is perfect…

He is a shield for all who take refuge in him.

For who is God besides the Lord?

And who is the Rock except our God?

It is God who arms me with strength

and makes my way perfect.

He makes my feet like the feet of a deer;

he enables me to stand on the heights.

He trains my hands for battle;

my arms can bend a bow of bronze.

You give me your shield of victory;

you stoop down to make me great.

You broaden the path beneath me,

so that my ankles do not turn"

2 Samuel 22:31-37

"I will sprinkle clean water on you,

and you will be clean.

Your filth will be washed away,

and you will no longer worship idols.

And I will give you a new heart,

and I will put a new spirit in you.

I will take out your stony, stubborn heart

and give you a tender, responsive heart.

And I will put my Spirit in you"

Ezekiel 36: 25-27


Jeanette said...

WOW Candace that is some testimony that takes a lot to tell people, its great that through Gods love you can share that. Praying for you and the kids during this time Kelly is deployed and that you will find comfort in family and friends. Take care of yourself and know that God loves you know matter what.

JoyceMeyer said...

I googled Joyce and your blog came up. I hope you dont mind me commenting. God bless you. You are such a brave woman to stand behind Kelly. He is a blessing to this nation. God bless you all!

-- Jen Miller