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Transformed by Love

Growing up in South Louisiana, Chantel’s childhood was far from idyllic with a mother who was emotionally distant and verbally abusive.

“I always felt she hated me,” Chantel recalls.  “She never said she loved me. She never said I was pretty.”

When her parents decided to let a family member live on their property, the pain only escalated once he began to abuse Chantel.

“From the time I was 8 until I was 12…that abuse went on, and he would tell me that if I ever said anything, he would abuse my baby sister,” says Chantel.  “I didn’t want anything to happen to her, so I didn’t say anything.  I think I just naturally blamed myself. I knew it had to be my fault, that I had to be really bad.”

Unable to confide in her mother, Chantel suffered quietly.  The abuse finally ended, but her mother’s excessive partying made her more irrational in her content for her daughter.

“I was in 8th grade.  And I came home, she had my bags packed and she said, ‘get in the car we’re going somewhere.’ And I said, ‘where are we going,’ and she wouldn’t talk,” Chantel recalls.  “And it’s a hospital. I can tell. And I’m like, ‘why are we at a hospital?’ She said, ‘you’ll see.’”

Without any medical evaluation, her mother had arranged to have Chantel committed to a mental institution.

I said, ‘Mom, what is going on?’ and she says, ‘don’t’ worry about it.’ She signed a paper and walked out and never looked back,” says Chantel.  “So I go to the room and I curl up in a fetal position on the floor in the bathroom and just cry, and I felt like I was in jail.”

After three weeks, Chantel began to open up to her psychiatrist.

“I told him I was sexually abused, that my mom didn’t love me, that she was always verbally mean to me, that she drank and she partied and she was more worried about other people than me,” says Chantel. “And after about a week, he told me I would need to share these things with my mom.”

Chantel knew a confrontation with her mother would not go well, but she agreed to talk to her.

“Without hesitation, she slaps me clean across the face, calls me a lying curse word and says, ‘This is what you brought me down here for?’ walks out of the room, slams the door and leaves,” Chantel recalls.

Chantel was allowed a home visit the following weekend, when her parents would be throwing a large St. Patrick’s Day party.  The man who abused her was invited.

“My mom picks me up and as coldly as you could be, she said, ‘Chantel, don’t you make him feel unwelcome and don’t you dare say what you told me to anyone else, cause if you do, you’ll never get out of that hospital.’”

From that moment on, Chantel decided to bury the pain deep inside her heart and mind.

“I learned to put on masks and wear masks every day,” says Chantel.  “And I never said I needed help. I never cried out for help, because I didn’t trust that I would ever get it.”

After three months were completed, she went home.  She kept her distance from her mom, went on to finish high school, get a job and move out.  In the coming years she did her best to keep the hurt hidden, but it found its way to the surface.

“I got married to a guy who abused me. I left him,” Chantel recalls.  “I got pregnant for a guy who I didn’t love. And went, ’okay, you had a chance and you did it all wrong, you’re really bad’.”

Around that time, someone told her about a church that had just opened their doors.

“My perception of God was that he was gonna judge me. I did not think he would love me,” says Chantel.  “I thought he would actually reject me, but I wanted to try.”

Pregnant and searching for answers, Chantel made an appointment with a pastor at the new church.

“I sat down, and said, ‘I need to get some things off my chest.’ And I just went through my life of everything I had did wrong, including being abused. Everything I thought that was my fault. She says, ‘Can you stand up?’ And I stood up and she hugged me. And when she hugged me, I felt love. And I had never felt love before, I felt love,” Chantel recalls.  “And she, I don’t know if I could say this without crying, she said, ‘Jesus loves you just where you are.’ And I was like, ‘Why, I’m bad?’ and she says, ‘No, it’s okay.’ And she said, ‘Do you want to accept Jesus?’ And she led me in prayer and I felt, just freedom.”

Chantel forgave the family member who abused her, and before her mother died, she was able to mend their relationship. Today she is happily married, loving life with her daughter and son and has found freedom that only comes from relying on Jesus Christ.

“I was independent my whole life, I needed no one or nothing. And today, I don’t do anything without asking God first. I’m dependent on Him,” says Chantel.  “God restored relationships that should have remained broken. He taught me how to forgive people. And in that, I have freedom.”

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