By Kerry Connelly
Tonight, I am making a dream book. I hope it will be filled with all the imaginings that God has for my life. I know some of what will be in there. The typical things, like a trip to Disney for my kids, paid for by me. Financial independence, so I can not only support my family, but help pay for things that the church (as in, our church, TLCC, and OUR CHURCH, the body of Christ) needs. There will also be things like pink Cadillacs and diamond rings (yes! I’m part of THAT direct sales company) and a housekeeper who will make up for my less-than-stellar home-tending skills each week. There will be the position of National Sales Director in my business, and all the women whose lives and families will be positively affected by their decisions to step into their own greatness because I decided to step into mine. But the culmination (at least, as far as I can see) is Vanessa’s House. Have I told you all about Vanessa?
Vanessa was many things, but most of all, she was my friend. She’s dead now, and I can honestly say that the last time I saw her I truly did hug as if I would never see her again – because I wasn’t sure I would. After a year here as an au pair, she was heading back to South Africa. We hugged goodbye in the airport, but we were sitting on the front steps of the house I grew up in when told me she was going to die young. I’m not sure if she thought it would be at the hand of her horrifically abusive father. Or the anorexia she battled. Or maybe, even then, she was already contemplating the bottle of pills she would eventually swallow. I don’t know. But she did die young. Too young. 2008.
Her situation made me acutely aware of systemic familial abuse. The entire family system of sexual, physical, and emotional abuse became something I studied and wrote about. It changed me, my perspective on many things, and it birthed in me a dream. Because I dreamed that if only Vanessa could be here in the states, we could get her all the help she needed. We could get her counseling. We could give her legal advice. We could provide daycare for the three children she would have before she died. I could drive her to my mother’s house on a nature preserve, and the ride through the hills to the lake would heal her soul, and a bountiful harvest of hearty fruits and vegetables would be before her, and she would eat. That wasn’t to be. Many, many things happened to Vanessa after she went home, and none of them included my mother’s lake or a bountiful harvest.
She went back to South Africa in 1998. She died ten years later. Since the day I got that email – a simple, one lined message saying, “I just thought you might like to know…” — that dream has become a vision: a vision to build a safe, full-service facility where women’s bodies, minds, and souls can be healed from the effects of domestic violence and abuse. Where they can bring their children and know they are safe. Where they can learn self-defense and work out to make their bodies strong and healthy, where they can get counseling so their minds can heal as well. Career training, professional wardrobing, child care, legal counseling – all of these would be services that Vanessa’s House will provide.
I know this is the part of God’s life that He’s asked me to participate in. I didn’t ask to learn about child sexual abuse or anorexia. But one day, I was tying my shoelace and a hand reached out and untied it. Vanessa giggled at her mischief, and we became friends. And in that moment, I was set on a path to open Vanessa’s House, and I am choosing to say “Yes,” to that path. I am willing to step into the “masterful role*” God is calling me to play.
The futures of women and children are in front of me. Every decision I make to act – or not to act – creates or eliminates options for their destinies. God created me for a purpose, and I am busy trying to find it, to work out my own calling, to understand. I often stomp my feet in frustration, in misunderstanding, in thinking this should all be easier. But my dreams for my life are different than the ones God dreamed for me. God wants me to be involved in some things that hurt, so that I can maybe, just maybe be a friend to someone who’s been hurt more.
So among the pages of my dream book that have cut outs of healthy bodies from SELF Magazine w/ my head atop them, and pictures of Cadillacs and National Director Suits, there will be a page for Vanessa’s House. Lists are beginning to be made, the vision being fleshed out more. Because this facility, this thing named after my friend, is the way to a TEN life for me.
*Watch Pastor Terry speak more on the topic of playing a “masterful role” in the world here: TLCC Media