Exposed to domestic violence and childhood abuse, it isn’t surprising that Candelaria’s view of love was skewed, or that drugs and violence would carry on into her adulthood. “Every person in my family, with the exception of my older sister, hit. I was beaten all the time. I was molested, held captive in the fields. Things that happened to me were not things anyone spoke about. I was also a target for 14 years by my children’s father. Young, pregnant at 14, I wasn’t escaping my life. I really thought that all women experienced this. This was the only example of family and love I had.” Anger was brewing inside her.
“When my marriage ended and the kid’s father was deported in 2003, I was still lost. In my mind, I had to have a man to make it. I met someone in 2005. For the next 9 years I lived in sin, unmarried to a man who, for the first time, wasn’t abusive. He was timid. That should have been a wonderful blessing for me, but this time I made the choice to lash out. I was the abuser. My anger escalated over time, from yelling to shoving, slapping to punching. It grew from there. Eventually, I stabbed him in the eye with a knife. He lived. He even stayed by my side while I fought addiction and entered the program through Rescue the Children. I thought his loyalty was a good thing. It wasn’t. I had changed. Jesus came into my life. New relationships developed here with godly women who were speaking into my life about character and boundaries. Finding comfort and love from Jesus had me reaching for the stars. I was no longer Candy, the woman held hostage in a dark place; the abuser living in sin. I was now Candelaria, a light for Christ. So making my past mingle with my future has meant several hard lessons in letting go. I’m still learning. A lot of hidden fears still exist in me. But as I practice new behaviors and move forward with Jesus at my side, I’m finding courage. Prayer gives me strength. Scripture gives me focus.
Last month I was invited to take part in a camping trip to Morro Bay. It was my first time, ever. In 40 years, I had never been to the coast or walked on a beach. I knew the daytime hours would be fun, but I was nervous about camping. The last time I had been around a campfire was when I was held hostage in the fields. I dreaded the memories of the violence overshadowing me. I had people praying for me and with me. I held tight to what I know to be true, that God is ALWAYS with me. It was the best time away I can remember.
While there, over a fork-full of pancakes, overlooking Morro Rock, God gave me a poem. I love writing poetry, but this time the words came easily. It was as if He had written them directly in my heart. I shared His Words with Trish, a staff member of RTC and a great friend. His Words of encouragement came out of me as if I had been reciting them all my life ...”