By accident one September afternoon, I was driving down the street and I saw balloons and flags from a Resource Fair. I stopped by just out of curiosity. I was welcomed by greeters and they even fed me dinner! I listened to their presentation, asked questions, looked at their materials, and quickly decided this was the place for me!
At the time I felt totally lost and lonely, like walking through a fog in the forest, with no hope. I met Jessika that day and told her my story. After 22 years of good family life, I lost it all. My husband declared he was transgendered and abandoned us all: me and my three children. I was homeless for two months with two of my children still with me. I was overwhelmed with every part of my life – I didn’t even know where to begin to start over and to care for myself and my children. I felt like I had been living a lie. Jessika listened so carefully and told me I was welcome and that they would offer me a safe place to figure it out. She recommended the Strong Families Institute. By October I was enrolled and my life would never be the same.
I was embarrassed by how clueless I had been. I had been totally controlled by my husband and had just gone along. I didn’t make any decisions – even the color of the curtains! I had no voice. I had no opinions. There was a roof over my head and we were financially stable. What more could I want?! I was just like my mother. My father was an abusive alcoholic and she learned to be quiet to get along. I did the same. Now my whole world was turned upside down and I had no idea what to do next.
I can’t begin to tell you what a difference SFI made. I’m not remotely the same person. I’ve learned to be assertive, to find my voice, to communicate in healthy, helpful ways. I own my opinion. I’m more aware – I pay attention to what’s going on around me. I learned to recognize what I have and what I am capable of doing. I realized that I am not alone. Other women were going through similar – or worse – situations. Together we were all forging a new path for ourselves and we were solving problems together. I got many amazing and practical tools, so much wisdom and good advice, so much support and encouragement. And they expected me to keep moving forward.
I didn’t know what healthy relationships and a healthy family should look like. I do now! I’ve forgiven my husband, I’ve found the peace of letting the past go, I’m moving on. I’m focusing on growing, getting to know myself, taking care of my children and dreaming for the future. I’ve found a job as a Teacher’s Aid and am working toward going back to school. I want to be a medical records assistant. I know God has great things in store for me and I’m committed to walking with Him into the future. MSH saved my life. The environment is so warm, so welcoming, so empowering. SFI was a transforming experience and I will be forever grateful to have followed those balloons that day and found a new home.