Michele Armstrong April 18, 2018 3

To say that I was terrified when I left my abusive marriage is an understatement. But I knew it was time. I want to make one thing perfectly clear. I AM NOT an advocate for divorce. It’s a shattering and horrific experience. And it’s not God’s perfect plan. However, I am an advocate for finding release from being a victim. And sometimes getting out and leaving is the only option if one wants to save their sanity, their emotional well-being, and perhaps their life. Unfortunately, that was the choice I was forced to make. But making that choice only came out of desperation for peace. And though I did everything I knew to stay, my ultimate decision to leave has set me on a path of a ministry of I could have never dreamed.

When I first sought refuge at my parent’s home in Texas, I was sick. Very, very sick. In fact, I didn’t know how sick I was until the light began to emerge out of the darkness of my soul. I began to realize for the first time the true depth of the madness I had endured for all those years. I began sharing some of the details with my family, and just voicing those details was enlightening, to say the least. As I opened up, others around me began sharing about things they had witnessed. The details are sordid, and to this day, no one but me knows the hideous nature of it all. There are details I just don’t know that I could voice. Some things are just better left unsaid, I suppose.

As I began to become “conscious” after having lived in a fog for so long, I went through a sort of physical and emotional “detoxing” as it were.  Even a text on my phone from my ex-husband would cause issues with extreme diarrhea, I would become nauseous, I became plagued with flu-like symptoms, and I would have to go to bed for hours. I was a mess, indeed. Sleep was perhaps one of the greatest gifts God provided for me during that time. It was the first time since I was 18 years old, that I truly slept peacefully. I was “safe” for the first time in years, and my body drank in the hours of peaceful sleep. And it was deeply healing. But I had to sleep with the lamp on next to the bed. The darkness was just too smothering to endure. And there were still many nights I would wake up screaming in the middle of the night, having had nightmares about my ex-husband and all I had witnessed. Those nightmares lasted literally for years. These days those bad dreams are rare, but they still come from time to time. And they are still frightening, and horrifically sad. And I call on the name of Jesus to release me from the oppressive feelings of darkness.

As those day turned into months, I slowly began to feel life emerging from within. I felt the healing and the great weight lifted from my soul, and I began to look with anticipation at the road ahead. Don’t get me wrong, there were still days of extreme oppression when I would guilt myself into believing I needed to go back. It’s hard to break free of those feelings. But as soon as I would convince myself I was going back, God would THROW open a door in my path that would not only make His plan clear, but would also take me further away from the notion of returning to my former life. And with no hesitation, I would walk through them.

I had no skills. No qualities that in the eyes of the world would tempt any employer to give me a job. I would get dressed up and go to places that were hiring with no resume and no experience. I’m not gonna lie, it was hard. It took me stepping WAY out of my comfort zone to go to those places empty-handed and with nothing to offer. And, of course, I would never hear from them. But God is greater than all of that, and He had a plan. And it was more than I could imagine. And now, I will tell you the story.

In my attempt to try to find a job, along came a girl named Macey. I had known her many years prior when she was in college and was a leasing professional in the apartment industry. Well, it “just so happened” that now she was Vice President of her own property management company. God’s timing is incredible. One day after visiting an apartment community in Texas I thought to myself, “I could do this. I could show and lease apartments.” So, Macey came to mind, and I called her. Within a few weeks of our first visit on the phone, Macey contacted me with news she had an opening at one of her beautiful apartment communities in Nashville! And out of her precious heart, she provided me with an almost brand new luxury apartment and a job at the same community so that I could support myself.  So, on August 8th of that year, at the age of nearly 48 years old, I began the first career of my life at Nickel Plate Properties. I moved to a city where I knew no one, and had no clue what this new world would look like.

The corporate world was all so new and foreign to me. I didn’t even know what business professional dress was. I mean, I thought I looked pretty cute, but it wasn’t business professional policy, so I found out. But sweet Macey, in her extravagant love, took me shopping and showered me with business suits and shirts and business professional attire. The transformation was beginning to take place.

I also was to find out that corporate and administrative duties were not my strong suit, by any stretch of the imagination. Some days, my manager would shake her head, sort of in disbelief and sort of in pity for my utterly lost and bewildered plight. And believe it or not, the second day on the job I accidentally set the clubhouse pool table on fire! Yes, you read that right. On fire. That is a story in itself, but suffice to say that no one could have had a more incredibly bad second day, and yet I survived and didn’t get fired. It was a rough start. But everyone was so patient and so helpful as I learned, and slowly I began to catch on. I began leasing apartments right and left and began learning about Fair Housing laws and about computer operating systems, and resident interaction, and so on. Slowly I began to get the hang of it all. And just when I thought I might be beginning to understand what I was doing, I was asked to do something I had never heard of before.

My manager at the time said to me one day, “Michele, I need you to go out marketing.” I was absolutely clueless. I must have looked like a deer in the headlights. In my mind, marketing was a shopping cart filled with diapers and cabbage and bread and milk. What in the world did this word mean in the corporate world? She tried her best to explain, but the most I got out of it was I should take flyers about our apartment homes out to the community. So, that is precisely what I did. I took them to businesses; I put them on windshields of cars in parking lots; I even gave one to a man knelt down changing his tire and to two emergency medical responders taking a break in their medical van. I laugh about all that, now. Because the story doesn’t end there.

After living in Nashville for a couple of months, Macey moved me to another property in the Knoxville, Tennessee area. I began learning about marketing, and about networking, and chambers of commerce, and resident relation events, and community involvement events, and how cross-marketing works, and referral groups, and everything in between.  And I knew I had found it–my niche in this big corporate world that had been so foreign to me. You should have seen my reaction the first time someone asked me to join a networking group. I avoided it like the plague because I was so clueless it sounded like a cult of some sort. But you should see me now, my friend. There aren’t many networking groups in this city that I have not either visited or attended regularly. And in just over a year from my start date at Nickel Plate, Macey promoted me to Corporate Marketing Executive in her company. And I am still doing that to this day, and life is good.

And as this story continues to unfold, I am astounded. I am astounded by the provision of a mighty God who never let me go. I am astounded how God used a girl named Macey to save my life. Who would have known that when our paths crossed so many years earlier, that God would use her in such an extraordinary way? And I more indebted to her than I can put into words. I am astounded by a path God provided for me that, at this moment, I don’t know I can fully comprehend it. I am astounded at the precious husband I have that provides for me and takes care of me and listens to me and helps me chase my dreams. And I am astounded that as Jesus began to break the chains that bound me, that I have been able to put to paper, as it were, words about my experience with abuse and my path to victory so that I can light the way for other women who are bound in the chains of Satan. And now I can tell a story that that can help set them free. A  story of pain. But more than that, a story of redemption and freedom. And as I hear so very many stories from those women, I am astounded at the ministry God is creating for me. And I want to shout it to the world. And I want to speak across this country and the world about the magnificent God that relentlessly chases us and won’t leave us in despair.

And I think back to the broken woman in the hotel room without hope and without a clue and how God would some day use her story, and I am astounded. I am astounded every day. And I am here to tell you, He sees you, and you are not alone. And though it may seem against all odds, all you need do is listen and be ready to radically obey. Step into the power of His Kingdom, and there you will find glory unimaginable.

” For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you a hope and a future.” Jeremiah29:11

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