Participants: Cheri Peters (Host), Dannielle Synot
Series Code: CLR
Program Code: CLR000108B
00:14 Welcome back. You know I want to take you to Mark 12:29. Jesus is
00:23 talking to somebody and the person like what's the most
00:26 important thing and out of the commandments what do I need to
00:30 know and how am I going to almost like guarantee that I'm
00:34 okay. He knows that the guy really needs to get a teaching
00:39 but what he says is incredible. Jesus replied, the most
00:44 important is this. Listen O Israel love the Lord your God
00:49 with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind
00:54 That's the most important thing. The next thing is love each
00:59 other. I am getting that more and more because in my recovery
01:04 there's no way to recover on your own, there's no way to
01:07 kind of change your life and get it together when you are on
01:10 your own. Even when you're just in your family unit I think
01:13 there's something about connecting with community and
01:16 friends and being able to have that person that you can just
01:20 call and say anything. That's really important. I am beginning
01:24 to just feel more and more blessed by God directing me to
01:28 do that in my life. I want to introduce to one of my best
01:32 friends. Danni I can't even believe your here.
01:34 I know, it's incredible isn't it. It's just so surreal to be
01:37 here. It's fun. You do your own
01:40 program in Australia, In Focus. Tell us a little bit about that.
01:44 Yeah, In Focus is basically a news broadcast. So I'm
01:48 essentially the news reader for that program for the South
01:52 Pacific Division of the Seventh- day Adventist Church. So it's
01:56 basically a magazine that goes out around the South Pacific
01:59 Division and it's kind of a news version of that.
02:01 What's really fun is there are times that I've been to
02:04 Australia doing ministry and I've got to hang out and watch
02:07 you on your set. So to have you here I'm like shut up, this is
02:12 too fun. I know it is. It is too fun, but I know that also you've
02:16 done a series called Beyond the Search and that's kind of an
02:20 outreach for people coming into their relationship with God.
02:24 You do the news thing. You work at the Media Center in Australia
02:27 but right now what I want people to know is like who are
02:31 you. 'Cause I think your journey with God has been intense but
02:37 man your healing has been a blessing to watch. So I want you
02:41 to start as far back as you need to start and let us
02:46 know about you. How did you get to where you are at now?
02:49 Yeah. I'm just going to say first that I think God is
02:53 incredible. All right I like that.
02:56 And when I look back on my life, particularly growing up in a
03:00 home where you know Christianity wasn't even on the table I just
03:04 look back now but I still see God's fingerprints all over it.
03:08 So basically my mom and dad had me. By the time I was two they'd
03:12 divorced. So I went to live with my mom at my grandparents' place
03:16 I would see my dad on access visits like weekends and that
03:20 kind of stuff. But I had that much love from my grandma that
03:23 I don't remembering feeling it at that point. I felt loved.
03:27 Everybody kind of gathered in. At least your grandmother did
03:31 and said I'm just probably going to give her what she needs.
03:35 Yes exactly. And I think too at that point that my grandmother
03:40 had grown up in a Methodist family and so her dad and two
03:44 of her grandparents were actually Methodist ministers.
03:47 So she grew up keeping Sunday in a really godly way and she
03:53 all of those moral values and although she let go of her
03:58 faith and there was no Christian upbringing even for my mom, the
04:02 moral stuff was there like you don't have sex before you're
04:05 married, you don't swear. A very godly lady.
04:10 But she wanted to put a loving home together and all that kind
04:13 of stuff. Yes. Yeah. And so that was
04:16 really, really cool. By the time I was 4 both my mom and my dad
04:21 had remarried and my stepfather was an ambulance officer so we
04:25 moved like three hours away. That was kind of interesting
04:29 moving away from my grandma. She just loves kids, she's just
04:34 so cool. I remember her feeling really safe; as a baby lying
04:37 down and she would just stroke my forehead and sing Jesus Loves
04:41 Me or Brahms Lullaby. She would sing me to sleep at night and so
04:45 that was a weird thing to step away from. My dad was like five
04:50 hours away so I would see him maybe once every couple of
04:53 months if that. But he really wasn't connected. Like I don't
04:56 really remember talking to him on the phone. I don't think he
04:59 paid maintenance, that kind of stuff.
05:02 So what a huge change at that time.
05:04 So I saw mom about four and you know your childhood, that's sort
05:09 of where memories sort of start to be able to be remembered when
05:13 you're older. So it was quite a significant time. And my step
05:17 dad was really nice. He had a daughter from a previous
05:20 marriage who was a year older and so we would see her every
05:23 second weekend. We got along really well. It was quite secure
05:27 like I didn't really feel the divorce much at that point.
05:31 But then when I was about 6 my mom and my step dad had their
05:35 own child, a little boy, my brother Josh and I adored him.
05:39 He was just so cute. And my dad...
05:42 He still is pretty cute.
05:43 He is pretty cute and he's funny he's the funniest guy. But my
05:49 step mom and my dad a few months before that had a baby sister.
05:55 And so at that time I remember one day my dad he came to pick
06:00 me up on an access visit and something about it felt
06:04 different and I had no reason to think that anything would be
06:08 different. So he came in a taxi and we drove to the airport in
06:12 this little country town. He said, I've got my pilot's
06:15 license and I'm going to take you in the airplane back to
06:17 Waringo where he lived. How exciting. I know it, a little
06:20 kid in an airplane, you're kidding light aircraft.
06:23 So we get on and I'm going,
06:25 Dad go through the clouds and that was all fun till
06:28 I started throwing up all over the back seat. But I slept I
06:32 think the rest of the way. We got there and then he takes me
06:35 to church. And I'm thinking, okay, this is kind of nice.
06:38 I think I might have been to Sunday school with some friends
06:42 and I always kind of like that. So he did that and just before
06:45 we left he sat with me on the couch and he sat me on his knee
06:48 and he gave me this big children's Bible, have you seen
06:51 those like Children's Bibles and beautifully illustrated.
06:53 He started telling me all about my Father in heaven who loves me
06:58 and there was something really cool about that. I thought, Oh
07:02 wow. So we had an incredible time, went back on the plane,
07:07 and we went to say goodbye and he got back in the taxi and went
07:11 off round the corner and it still felt strange, it felt
07:14 different. And I remember just watching as the taxi drove away
07:18 around the corner, like I just kept watching until he went out
07:21 of sight and I couldn't see him anymore. And then months and
07:25 months went by and I never saw him again. He just stopped
07:29 seeing me, he just cut contact.
07:33 You know just by the way you watched him drive away there
07:37 was something that was telling you, something's different here
07:39 and I can't figure it out. But you're acting different.
07:44 Why and what did I do wrong and all of that kind of stuff.
07:48 It was later on, my mom used to like listening to the Beatles
07:52 and they have a song The Long and Winding Road and the words
07:56 of that song even to this day just take me back to that place.
07:59 The long and winding road that leads to your door, you left me
08:04 standing here a long, long time ago. Yeah and it was a weird
08:09 time. Shortly after that, because of course my brother
08:12 Josh had been born and I'm still living with mom, my stepfather
08:15 just changed. It almost seemed like an overnight change and all
08:19 of a sudden he just wanted his kids and then some pretty
08:24 intense abuse started. I remember him taking my brother
08:29 and my stepsister away on a holiday to a farm and I just had
08:33 to stay home with mom. Yeah there was almost a hatred there.
08:38 He was a perfectionist so like there would be things Sheri like
08:43 if I was home one minute late I would be grounded for two
08:46 weeks, no phone calls, no friends, no television, nothing.
08:49 If I spoke while the news was on you know I had to sit in the
08:53 kitchen by myself and eat. There was a time where...
08:58 I can't even imagine 'cause I just know you as an adult but I
09:04 can imaging as a child, trying to figure out, what are the
09:07 rules here. Why has it
09:09 changed and then why is dad not coming any more and all that
09:12 kind of stuff and you as a little girl trying to figure all
09:15 of that out and why do you hate me because I don't know.
09:18 And trying to find your place in all that too.
09:21 Like I don't belong with my dad,
09:22 I don't fit into this family anymore. My grandma
09:27 adored me and was like a second mom but she's not around and I'm
09:30 really not her daughter. So I always had that sense. And even
09:34 birth order. When my stepsister was at home then I was the
09:38 oldest but when she was home then I was the middle child, yet
09:41 I was kind of the big sister because there's seven years
09:46 between and it just was really confusing. My step dad with his
09:50 personality. Like if we were out somewhere he was like so nice
09:53 and kind and that, but behind closed doors he just more and
09:57 more got twisted.
09:59 He would actually rage.
10:00 Oh yeah, he would rage. I remember him kicking at... our
10:04 dog got inside one night and I remember him kicking the dog
10:08 and I remember at one point he asked me to clean my room and I
10:11 was sort of trying to copy my stepsister and would cheek him.
10:14 Because if she said it there was nothing. She said, I've got dad
10:18 wrapped around my little finger. Well I said, Why should I. And I
10:21 rarely cheeked him. And he just grabbed me by the hair and
10:23 cussed at me and called the equivalent of a female
10:26 prostitute and slammed my head into the wall. I remember him
10:29 having an argument with my mom and he was just screaming in the
10:33 bedroom. I walked in and he had straddled her over the bed and
10:37 had his hands around like her collar bone, almost around her
10:40 throat, and his just pushing her up and down screaming at her.
10:44 I'm like, get off, get off. I ran next door. A few minutes
10:48 later they came in just acting like nothing had happened.
10:52 And I was just nodding my head.
10:55 A lot of people just don't realize the craziness of all of
10:59 that saying now as a kid how do I deal with that craziness. It's
11:02 nothing makes sense and then yet everybody acts like the next
11:06 minute that this is normal and this is how a family relates to
11:10 each other. And you're saying, Okay, do we eat now, do we sit
11:14 at the table. I mean, what's the next step?
11:17 Yeah and to know that I could be good and I would still get in
11:22 trouble. He would even manufacture things at times so
11:26 You know I remember one time being in the kitchen with mom,
11:30 I was probably about 10 at this stage, and I was like you know
11:34 I didn't do what he's telling me I did wrong and he's raging away
11:39 Why won't you stand up for me. And she said, I just don't want
11:43 another fight. And so the message that I get is well
11:45 you're not worth fighting for. And I sort of thought you love
11:51 Brett, and you love Josh, but you don't love my dad so you can
11:57 only love half of me. You're trying to deal with that,
12:03 trying to settle with that. I wish I would have been there to
12:06 tell you you're worth fighting for, but I know that nobody was
12:10 there at that point and so you've literally walked into
12:14 preteens and teens with all of that junk.
12:17 I did. And I think the other perspective of that was my mom.
12:21 Why couldn't she fight for me? Well I didn't understand that at
12:25 the time but she actually had clinical depression and for part
12:29 of that time actually was hospitalized. So we're not just
12:32 talking about a low-grade thing. She was very depressed; couldn't
12:37 feel, couldn't defend herself let alone me and she was under
12:41 incredible pressure and emotional abuse.
12:44 And physical abuse. And the physical stuff wasn't
12:49 like she was never punched in the face. I mean she was pushed
12:51 against walls, there was a lot of pushing. It was probably
12:54 more so the emotional stuff and certainly the physical stuff
12:59 with me. She never knew about until sort of after the fact.
13:04 He was very sneaky. Like one day he asked me to go and get
13:07 in the car and said shut the door. Well I shut the big door
13:11 and locked it, but I didn't quite click the wire door so he
13:15 went back and checked and came, Look at this and he would
13:18 literally, he could go on for half an hour just screaming.
13:22 And he said get in the car and I turned around to get in the
13:25 and he just ran up behind me and kicked me up the backside.
13:29 I think I was about a week. I literally couldn't sit down.
13:32 Or he go to smack me with the belt, he would like torment
13:36 and like fold the belt in half and push it together and then
13:41 clap it, snap it so you know what's coming. I couldn't say he
13:46 bashed us but there's that stuff But mom being in that depression
13:50 would just disassociate and sit there and watch Days of Our
13:53 Lives and all those shows and just would tune out.
13:57 How come when somebody disassociates to survive.
14:01 Because they could really not even see anything around them.
14:06 I'm escaping, I'm going some where else in my head.
14:10 Exactly. You know they really do go into their own world. You
14:13 know you've heard the term, off in lala land. You know that
14:17 really does happen and it's incredible you can be right in
14:21 someone's face and speaking to them and they don't even hear
14:24 it. With that comes emotional shut down.
14:28 Because she survived that in that way. So now you know that
14:32 I can't even reach her anymore because she's gone. And so I'm
14:36 standing here trying to figure out how to survive in this with
14:39 all this rage and my mom disappeared even though she's
14:43 still in the room. And as a kid I didn't know about
14:46 depression and any of that stuff I just think I'm dying here and
14:50 you don't love me and my dad doesn't love me and my stepdad
14:56 hates me. How do I survive? What do I do? So I learned pretty
15:01 quick to be able to disassociate myself, to be able to, as much
15:05 as I craved that love, to be able to just shut off. Because
15:08 you have someone raging at you for a half an hour it's really
15:13 easy just to eventually learn I cannot let you do this to me.
15:17 But I cannot fight because I get into more trouble so I just go
15:21 inside myself, to shut my heart off. So that's what I did and
15:25 that's how I survived. Especially after that hitting
15:28 the wall incident I knew, do not upset him. At all cost, do not
15:32 upset him. When I say eggshells, you're
15:38 walking in a mine field so at any moment you could trigger
15:43 something and there's going to be this explosion in the room
15:48 almost. Exactly. The hard thing was like
15:51 when my stepsister was around or if we were out in public he
15:56 was so nice and so good. You know you'd think, oh maybe he
16:01 likes me and then it would just be bang again, because kids are
16:08 so trusting. But eventually you start to do it. And when you're
16:15 constantly told you're not worth anything and called me
16:17 derogatory names you begin to believe it and your confidence
16:21 suffers and my school work suffered. To this day even with
16:25 anything to do with math. Like I can do a budget and work things
16:30 out but there's still an element panic sometimes.
16:34 When you talk about math what triggered that?
16:37 What happened? There'd be homework. I remember
16:40 it started with when I sat down to do homework one night and I
16:43 was struggling with a math problem and I had my books there
16:46 and he's trying to explain it and I just didn't get it and
16:49 part of that was because of the anxiety of his behavior. You're
16:54 stupid, you're going to fail this year, you're never going to
16:59 amount to anything.
17:00 So your anxiety starts going up. I want to do it right, I want to
17:05 figure it out. The yelling gets more and I can't. But you know
17:09 to me that even as you're saying this then you walk everywhere
17:14 and say, I can't, when the reality is that's not true but
17:18 that's what you took on growing up; I can't do any of this, I
17:22 can't do anything. And you take it on and carry it
17:24 with you. I'm not good, I'm not enough.
17:28 Very internalized stuff.
17:30 So it showed up at school, it showed up in definitely math.
17:34 Oh yeah. School's an interesting one because I was never popular
17:38 at school. I would have friends but just sort of small groups
17:43 and I would change. The bullying and rejection sort of stuff went
17:48 on in that way too. So there was all of that going on. I never
17:53 really got a break. If I had friends home and he raged in
17:56 front of them they'd be too scared to come back sometimes.
17:59 So I'd even lose friends that way.
18:00 For some people that have been raised in those environments is
18:04 that a lot of times you don't want to bring someone over
18:07 because you know that the possibility of the rage is going
18:10 to happen. It's just when it's going to happen. So you stop
18:12 bringing people. And you do walk in fear. You walk in that shame
18:18 and insecurity and all that kind of stuff and I wanted to shout
18:23 out, like I want to should out and just say, man it's huge for
18:27 a little kid to all of a sudden say this is how I'm going to see
18:31 the world, through what's happening in my home.
18:34 Yeah, exactly right. It reminds me a little bit of Ally McBeal
18:39 because that's a child I remember being
18:43 kind of like that. In that show she would
18:45 she would be imagining, like someone hurt her or annoyed her
18:49 and she'd have this vision of punching them in the face or
18:52 screaming or whatever and then it would go back to reality and
18:56 as a kid that's how I felt. He'd be going off his tree and I'd
18:59 inside be defending myself or whatever, but the reality was
19:02 I just have to actually take that.
19:05 When you talk about disassociation, that's in
19:08 disassociation I could go somewhere else and literally
19:11 just be punching you in the face yelling back, talking about this
19:15 is not fair but outside you're just standing there.
19:18 Yeah exactly. I grew up wanting to be an actress and I'd get
19:21 into the Wizard of Oz and these shows. I think, looking back on
19:25 that it's probably that thing, why I was good at creative
19:28 writing and I was good at all that kind of stuff because it
19:31 was an escape. Do you know what I mean? You can put yourself in
19:34 a place where you're feeling loved. My grandma remembers me
19:37 sitting in a hallway one day with my teddies all around me
19:40 like a barricade. So that they could protect you?
19:45 Yeah. Even as a teenager I liked to sit with a teddy bear.
19:49 And even now if I'm away and my husband's not there I'll put the
19:52 pillows up against me. I'm a real hugger. Just that's me.
19:58 So going in to school, not finding that kind of refuge even
20:02 in school, like you said, I'm not popular. I walked into the
20:07 classroom with all this kind of junk and say to myself all that
20:12 kind of stuff. At what point did you finally just... Because I
20:16 know there's a point in most of our lives where we just finally
20:20 say that's enough, I'm done. And what I did is just give me some
20:24 drugs. I need something to survive. Did you have that
20:27 moment where you just said enough.
20:29 Yeah, I think I did and it was probably a good moment and a bad
20:33 moment. My mom and my stepdad split up and that was just a
20:38 confusing but incredible time because all of a sudden he's
20:44 moved out of the house and I can actually come home and, wow,
20:48 I could just breath and it's safe and you know my mom's still
20:52 off her face like in front of the tele and all that kind of
20:56 stuff. I'm not present. But at least I didn't have the intense
21:00 stuff going on and I could just virtually do what I wanted
21:03 in that sense. And it was then that I started to really I guess
21:09 see how bad the situation had been. You know when you step out
21:14 of an unhealthy situation. I thought wow and I started to
21:19 kind of, just having that breathing space, relax, I guess.
21:23 So one day I came home with a piece of creative writing that
21:27 I'd done and I based it on Hannibal Lecter and I hope all
21:31 of you here have not seen Silence of the Lambs,
21:34 but you know that where I
21:35 grew up in and so this is a guy that used to eat people and he
21:38 was locked up and you know terrible...
21:39 Just to bring that up. There are a lot of people from abusive
21:44 relationships who get into some dark writing because it's an
21:49 escape. So you were a typical kid that has been abused and
21:54 your writing was dark but it was good.
21:57 Yeah it was good and I didn't feel twisted writing it in the
22:00 sense of, do you know what I mean, it's not like I wanted to
22:03 kill people and go out and eat them. But I was just being
22:07 creative with what can I do with this character. So I had written
22:10 this stuff and I showed my Mom and she read it and she said
22:14 Did you write this? And I said, Yeah. Why? And she said are you
22:17 sure you wrote, you didn't copy it? And I said, No, why would I
22:20 do that? It's for English. And she said, That is so good. She
22:24 said, That's like something you'd read in a novel. I thought
22:27 wow she's proud of me. I felt that's just incredible.
22:31 Well about 15 minutes later my stepdad walked in because he
22:35 wanted to see my brother and all that. My mom goes, Oh look what
22:39 Danni wrote for English. And so he starts reading it; she can't
22:43 cuss, cuss, cuss hand that in. They'll think she's a nut case.
22:47 And he's going off his tree. Well 14 years of abuse and
22:53 rage just... I don't think I've ever been so angry.
22:57 I'd just had it.
23:01 I just had got to that crunch point and I turned to him and I
23:03 said, You don't even live here, you're not my father so why
23:07 don't you just... and cussed him out. I often say to people when
23:11 I tell this story, What do you think he did?
23:13 Because you would think he would just beat you, you would
23:17 would have just been beaten.
23:18 Or go off his tree and all of that. But he didn't. He said
23:20 nothing and he just turned around and walked out and my mom
23:23 was like standing with her jaw dropped as if to say, What did
23:26 you just do, but good on you. I should be telling you off but
23:30 I'm just not because he deserved it and that kind of thing.
23:34 I remember at that moment it was so defining and, I beg you do
23:39 not make vows like this but I vowed I would never let anybody
23:44 make me feel like that again. Nobody will ever hurt me again.
23:49 So I didn't care if it was my mom or the teacher at school
23:54 or another kid. You tried to put me down or speak to me badly
23:59 and I would just cuss you out. That's my weapon now.
24:03 You know what I mean? That's how I know to protect myself and
24:05 actually be able to say stuff out loud that I...
24:09 Finally you had a sense of power.
24:12 Yeah, in a real way. It was like the pendulum completely swung
24:17 the other way. So going through all of that and coming to that
24:21 point was really interesting in my teenage years; like I say at
24:26 14 I went feral because I really did go feral. And you
24:29 know the hormonal stuff is going on too at that point in
24:32 time. You know you're trying to find out who you are. I mean
24:37 that's hard enough I guess in a healthy home let along in that
24:42 kind of situation. So I started then to be interested in boys
24:46 and that kind of thing. I was not promiscuous in the sense of
24:50 going all the way and that kind of thing but I certainly wasn't
24:54 innocent. Do you know what I mean? I played around and I
24:57 couldn't tell you how many guys I've kissed. You remember that
25:03 kind of thing. And that's where it's really
25:05 tough because we do want to judge each other really harshly
25:10 sometime when you look at a kid that's out of control. I always
25:16 know that there's something that drives that child. So you were
25:21 really driven to be accepted, to be loved, to fit in
25:24 somewhere, to have someone say I adore you and you know you
25:29 were driven to do that so all of that acting out totally makes
25:33 sense, but at that point I imagine you're getting judged
25:37 not only by yourself but by people around you.
25:40 Oh yeah. Exactly right. You know that message that get when
25:44 relationships end and all that kind of stuff is... I always got
25:50 the message, it was more that I'm not worth loving because no
25:54 one stuck around. Do you know what I mean? It's not that I
25:59 couldn't be loved but no one stayed; everybody ran and that
26:03 went on for ages. So I got to a point when I was 16 that I
26:07 decided well I want to meet my dad. I want to find my dad.
26:10 I want to know where he is. I want some answers. I want to
26:13 know who I am because I only know half of me.
26:16 Why did you not come back?
26:18 Yeah, why didn't you come back. And I don't know if I should say
26:22 a lot of people when they've had that abandonment stuff they have
26:27 that grandiose stuff about... Oh you know my dad's a knight in
26:30 shining armor and he didn't really not love me and all that
26:35 kind of stuff. So that meeting happened and I found out
26:38 that he's still married to my stepmom who I adored. She was
26:42 funny. She could take off Donald Duck like you wouldn't believe
26:46 She was just fun. But they had three girls and a boy, so I had
26:50 another four siblings that I never knew about and I'm by this
26:54 time 16. So when I met them my youngest sister was only four.
26:59 So the bonding wasn't there and it was more like being cousins
27:04 or an aunt or something like that. At first it was really
27:08 cool because my dad is one of seven, so I've got 21 cousins
27:12 So this was something that I never knew so getting to know
27:15 them was all cool.
27:16 Finally I'm going to belong somewhere. I'm going to fit in,
27:20 this is going to be okay. It is actually like one of the
27:22 movies that I escape into and it's going to have a happy
27:25 ending. Yeah exactly. That's why I think when you talk about
27:29 disassociating into movies that I'm looking for the happy ending
27:33 Yeah exactly. And remember my last memory of my dad was him
27:37 sitting me on his knee and talking about God and giving me
27:41 a Bible. That was an interesting thing because I remember when
27:47 I was about six sitting on the toilet one day and mom just came
27:51 in and we were talking and I said, I know Santa is not real.
27:55 She said, Don't say that, you won't get a present. And I said
27:58 No I know he's not real. I mean Sarah at school told me. And she
28:02 said, Well I guess you're old enough to know that Santa's not
28:05 real. I just bawled my head off, and I said, What about the
28:09 Easter bunny, what about the tooth fairy. And she said, No
28:12 not real, not real. What about God? And she said, Well I don't
28:16 believe in God but you have to make your own mind up about that
28:21 one. And it was the first time in my life I remember thinking
28:25 You know you are actually wrong about something.
28:29 Because you said, You know I know because Dad told me.
28:32 Yeah, and I think it was more that that. There's that innate
28:36 knowing. I think it was God speaking to my heart that you
28:41 know I am real and that's not true. It wasn't an audible
28:46 voice but that was definitely the message I got. So God was
28:50 something that was real to me but I didn't know how to have a
28:54 relationship. So when I got back with meeting with my dad and my
28:57 cousins and my brothers and sisters you know I was expecting
29:00 all of that and for a while that was really good because it was
29:03 the flavor of the month kind of thing, here's Danni and blah,
29:07 blah, blah. But pretty soon that started falling apart and my dad
29:11 no longer went to church. He's not I guess a Christian in the
29:16 sense of that. He has how own personal beliefs. But I started
29:19 seeing the cracks in the other stuff like he's an alcoholic,
29:23 he's a workaholic and my brothers and sisters had that
29:26 same issue of he doesn't connect, he doesn't know how to
29:30 connect. So you just started seeing all
29:32 of that and now where do I fit in with all of this.
29:35 Exactly and again I don't fit into my family. I'm always the
29:39 black sheep of the family. I don't fit in anywhere. And I'm
29:43 like where is my place in the world? So I went through all
29:47 finished school a couple years late. I moved back to Geelong
29:50 because I wanted to be with my family because I was still
29:53 kind of getting to know them. I met a really cute guy at a
29:58 barbecue just as I was finishing up my last year of school.
30:03 So after I moved down I connected with my cousin and
30:06 she used to play badminton. So I started playing and would hang
30:09 out with them and found like a new crew. It was kind of good to
30:11 have a fresh start. No one really knows me here.
30:14 Exactly. I can start over.
30:16 Yeah, but I was still trying to fit in so they would go out
30:18 drinking and all of that. Just I guess backing up just a couple
30:23 years because this is an important detail and I forgot
30:25 it. When I was going through all that stuff at school too a
30:30 Baptist teacher that I had invited me to church because she
30:34 just saw the stuff I was writing in my journal and had
30:37 disengaged. She sort of took me under her wing and I joined in
30:40 with the youth a little bit and I actually started going there
30:43 every Sunday. I would long for the week to go through so I
30:47 could go because I felt good and that's one place where I knew
30:50 if the rest of the world hated me at least God loves me.
30:55 That was an incredible place to be in and an incredible thing
30:59 to feel. But of course I'd go home and I'd muck up and mom
31:03 would go well you're not a very good Christian. I was even
31:06 actually baptized at that point but I had no... I mean my social
31:11 skills were pretty bad I always had mixed messaged. So I didn't
31:15 really know how to do any of that stuff. Particularly leading
31:20 a Christian life, I didn't know anything and I mean nothing.
31:24 I knew there was a God, Jesus came to die for my sins, he died
31:28 on the cross and one day we'd go to heaven.
31:31 And I felt good in the building. Yeah, I felt good in the
31:33 building and that was about it. So when I moved to Geelong and
31:37 I no longer went to church but I fitted in with this group, I
31:41 just went with the crowd. So we'd be clubbing, drinking.
31:44 I started going out with my husband. Now I'm 18, he's seven
31:47 years older. We, of course, started sleeping together.
31:54 We bought a house and eventually we got married. So it's a bit
31:57 backward but we kind of were in that place. When we were
32:01 about four months out from getting married, God really
32:05 spoke to my heart strongly and he said you know you are doing
32:09 the wrong thing. I'm like oh I can't do this. And he said, you
32:13 know you shouldn't be sleeping with Mark. I know you've bought
32:17 a house and you're getting married but you shouldn't be
32:20 doing that. So I went to Mark. I mean, what do you do like?
32:23 Because he's not on the same spiritual journey as you.
32:27 Oh no. But if you said to him... He'd say, Oh yeah I believe in
32:30 God, but it's a belief and that's it. When you're talking
32:33 about generational damage and all that stuff I mean he's at
32:36 that stage. Just before that he was pretty much a binge drinking
32:42 alcoholic if you want to look at it in the correct term.
32:44 Like Thursday to Sunday he would just get smashed, I remember,
32:48 and he would get verbally abusive. Isn't it interesting.
32:52 We marry our parents. We marry our dads.
32:54 We do. Underneath that I saw he just has a gentle spirit and
32:59 I loved the potential and the things that I saw in him.
33:03 But when he had alcohol, different person. I remember he
33:07 would come home and he would throw up and I'd be undressing
33:10 him, clean him up and get him to bed. This one night he came home
33:14 and I'd just had enough and he said some pretty horrible stuff.
33:17 He walked down, we had steps down into our toilet, and he
33:20 went in there because he was feeling sick and he fell down
33:22 the stairs, broke the lid off the toilet seat and threw up
33:25 everywhere. There was just a part of me that said, You know
33:28 what, I'm not doing this any more, I'm not doing this again.
33:31 And I left him there and I went to bed. He woke up in the
33:35 morning, oh what happened. I said, Well you came in drunk and
33:39 you were swearing at me and I was scared; and there were times
33:41 where I actually got in the car and snuck out of the house
33:44 and left because I was afraid of what might happen. He never
33:47 bashed me but I think the potential was definitely there
33:50 for it to go that step further because he was out of his mind.
33:53 I said, You know what, I can't do this anymore. I said you have
33:57 a problem and if you're going to drink either you go and stay
34:01 somewhere else or tell me and I will,
34:03 but I'm not doing that again.
34:05 I said, I don't have an issue with you drinking but not if
34:07 you're going to take it to that level. And over those few months
34:10 he sort of started to see his issues and really cut back,
34:14 wouldn't drink certain things and wouldn't get drunk. So four
34:18 months out God said all this stuff about not doing...
34:22 I think it's interesting to me that even in the midst of all of
34:26 this is that God still is directing us, speaking to us
34:30 drawing us, all of those kinds of things. Because you would
34:33 think he would wait until we actually are behaving some.
34:36 Yeah, but he doesn't. He'll do whatever it takes to reach his
34:40 kids. I don't know what it was at that point that even made me
34:43 sit up and listen. This was going on for months. It was like
34:48 he was just relentless. But he just picked that time, he loves
34:51 us that much, he just picks that time and he picked that time and
34:55 he spoke to my heart and I went to Mark and I said, You know
34:57 I believe in God and I know this is a bad time to pull this but I
35:02 can't sleep with you anymore. We were about to get married
35:06 in four months, but you know I just can't. The other miracle
35:10 was, I really believe God was speaking to his heart even
35:13 though he didn't know it at the time, he just said, You know
35:17 what, that's fine. He completely honored that. So we didn't.
35:21 We got married and for the first time in my life I thought now
35:26 I have a family; it's him and I. Our first wedding anniversary
35:30 I took a pregnancy test and we found out that I was pregnant.
35:35 So it's an exciting time and I'm like I'm going to have this baby
35:40 At that time where are you spiritually. Are you making
35:44 commitments, going to church, just where are you at?
35:48 It was an interesting time because I said to Mark when I
35:53 found out I was pregnant, you know we need to start
35:55 looking for a church and start going back to church. But the
35:58 other half of that is he's still drinking a little bit, I'm kind
36:01 of over all that, but I was doing acting. So I had an agent
36:05 and I was doing some acting work and that kind of thing. You know
36:10 that's a very self-focused, not a good industry I guess for a
36:17 Christian to be in unless God calls you to it. So it was an
36:23 interesting time. But when I got to 18 weeks everything changed.
36:28 Because I had some bleeding he took me off to the hospital
36:34 By this time I'm 18 weeks _ myself all through my
36:37 pregnancy. They put the Doppler on to find a heartbeat and they
36:40 couldn't. I'm sort of thinking Oh man. They said, You know
36:44 have you felt movement or any of that and I said, Yeah like
36:48 easily within the last 48 hours. You know you get that butterfly
36:52 sort of a fluttery feeling. They said, Don't worry, sometimes
36:56 they can't pick up heartbeat this early. So then they pulled
36:59 the ultrasound out and I'd had an ultrasound at 12 weeks so I
37:03 knew what it was like to see this little funny looking alien
37:06 thing with its little legs moving around and little heart
37:11 beating and there was no heart beat. I could see the baby but
37:15 it was just still. And I knew, like I'm not stupid, what's
37:20 happened. But it was like that Huh because I had failed at a
37:24 log of things in my life but I thought I would never ever fail
37:27 at being a mom.
37:31 I can't imagine what it would feel like because you had so
37:38 much hope. I bought stuff. I had restored
37:42 an old fashioned cradle and you know I was just going to
37:45 love this kid. I'm saying to the doctor, Tell me, tell me, tell
37:51 me. She just was silent and I'm like just tell me, I yelled at
37:55 her. She said, I'm sorry your baby's died. I just felt like
37:59 my whole heart had been ripped out of my chest. I'm crying and
38:03 They said you know we're going to have to keep you in overnight
38:06 We're going to have to do an evacuation. It was really
38:11 bizarre but I knew at that time if I did not see my baby I
38:15 wouldn't have closure. I don't know if that sounds bizarre to
38:18 anyone, but that's just how I was. They kept me in overnight.
38:21 They did another ultrasound to make sure in the morning.
38:24 I don't know how much more sure you can be. So that was a bit
38:28 traumatic going through that again. I said, I really want to
38:31 see my baby and they said you know we've measured the size of
38:34 your baby and he was only 12 weeks and he'd come out in bits
38:37 and pieces because he's probably decomposed. I thinking, excuse
38:41 me. I've just lost my baby and you're telling me this stuff.
38:45 I just couldn't believe it. I said, I want my baby and I felt
38:50 movement. I know that's not true I know he's dead, I believe he's
38:54 dead but I don't believe he's been dead that long. So I fought
38:58 it and I said Okay go and speak to the registrar.
39:02 I did all that. Came back and they said
39:03 You've got till 4:30 and then we're scheduling
39:07 the surgery. So the long and short of it was that I got
39:14 scheduled for surgery, they gave me some stuff to bring on the
39:18 baby. At 4:30 they came in and the baby hadn't come and they
39:22 said, Oh we've got an emergency. We're putting the surgery back
39:27 to 6:30. As they walked in the door I delivered my little baby
39:32 It was a little boy. His name is Jackson. He was pink and perfect
39:36 and fully intact. I could see his little toes were just like
39:41 Mark's. Mark's got this really long big toe. And his little
39:46 hand would fit just right on the end of my finger. So I got to
39:50 hold him and take him home. It was hard and I did go on
39:55 to have some more kids and the first thing I would check when
39:59 they were born was have they got Jackson's feet. But that
40:03 next little time was incredibly tough. I went into a deep
40:06 depression and was having panic attacks every day. I literally
40:10 couldn't work, couldn't drive. I would freak out. Freaking out,
40:13 lost a ton of weight, couldn't eat, felt like I was going to
40:18 choke all the time. But it's in those times when God's hand just
40:22 reveals himself and I had nowhere to turn. One day I
40:25 remember having panic attack after panic attack and I got on
40:28 the couch and I just prayed. And God was bringing into my mind
40:32 all the bad stuff I'd done just one after another and I was just
40:35 rebuking it. I didn't even know how you had to do that. The Holy
40:38 Spirit... Tell somebody what rebuking it
40:42 means. Oh yeah. Like you know what, God
40:46 would give me a picture of my affair with boys or whatever
40:49 that was wrong and so I would say you know God I'm sorry, take
40:53 that, please take that away, please forgive me for that.
40:55 So rebuking it is like pushing it out of your life and giving
40:59 it to God. That was a really sort of cleansing time. Well by
41:03 the time I got done with that I looked up at the clock, three
41:08 hours. Three hours of his cleansing and prayer. Healing
41:13 started to take place but I got to the point because God had
41:18 been drawing me in love that whole time that I thought I want
41:23 to know where do you go when you die? What happens with that?
41:29 Where is God? Where is Jackson? I never blamed God interestingly
41:35 enough even though My dreams were taken
41:37 away. I just want to seek his
41:40 face. I just wanted to know where he was. I had a guy at
41:44 work who was a Seventh-day Adventist. His name was Collin
41:49 Holman and they used to call him Collin Holy Man. So if I had any
41:52 questions I would go to Collin and say what about this and he'd
41:54 say well this is the answer but don't take my word for it. You
41:57 go and look in the Bible. So I started keeping a Bible at work
42:00 because I'm back to work part time at this time. Three months
42:03 later I got pregnant with my next child and so that was an
42:06 anxious time. But I'm still seeking God and he knew I was
42:09 doing acting and I was doing a church play that people from the
42:13 whole state would come; a big outdoor play about Calvary.
42:17 Would you like to act in presenting it. Yeah, cool.
42:20 So that's a good focus. So then I start going to church and get
42:23 into small group meetings. But I was hungry, and Sheri I mean
42:27 hungry. I went and bought a concordance which is like a
42:30 a good that you can look up any topic and it'll give you all the
42:33 Bible references, the dictionary meaning of it. They would tell
42:36 me something and I would go you know what I want the truth.
42:39 I don't want any rubbish and so I would go topic by topic.
42:42 I wanted to know something about death I would go okay death...
42:45 Every place in the Bible that talks about death you would look
42:48 up. And I know your personality so I know that that's true.
42:51 Every single thing. I'm intense with all of that.
42:53 So you want to learn your Bible and get close to God. There's a
43:01 prophecy in Daniel 2 where, I won't go into it, but the
43:04 history of the world is basically laid out 600 years
43:07 before Christ that God predicted and it happened and that really
43:12 got me. I thought if this is true then God is real and what
43:16 he promises is true and he promises that he will wipe away
43:19 every tear from our eye, that there'll be no more sickness, no
43:22 more crying, no more pain and that he loves us, that he will
43:26 never leave us and never forsake us.
43:29 And you've been trying to find that your whole life.
43:32 And here it is right in front of me the whole time.
43:35 I can't even imagine what it felt like when you finally
43:39 thought you know what all of this is true. The Easter bunny
43:43 may not be true. Santa Claus may not be true but there's a God in
43:47 heaven that cares about me and every single thing that I have
43:51 felt, all the pain that I've been through. Exactly. Holding
43:56 my baby and having to give him up. All that. I love even I know
44:00 you finally did get to the place where God said, You know there's
44:03 going to be a day that I'm going to bring Jackson up from the
44:07 grave and hand him back to you and you will raise this boy,
44:11 which is an incredible thing, you know. It is.
44:15 I went on then to have three more children. They're adorable.
44:21 They are so beautiful. But I didn't do too good as a mom
44:27 after that. I remember one particular time God really got
44:30 hold of me and I just have to share this because it was
44:33 probably one of the most incredible times I've ever had
44:37 where I felt like I actually experienced the face of God.
44:40 We'd gone through some stress. We actually lost our house and
44:44 that kind of stuff. By this time I'm baptized Seventh-day
44:48 Adventist and going to church. Within 18 months of being
44:51 baptized I was preaching and stuff, so God really had done
44:55 some huge stuff. But Hannah was little and we went away to a
44:58 cabin and Mark's watching TV because I think America invaded
45:02 Iraq at the time or something it was all over the news.
45:05 I'm just wanting to connect. Here we are with our baby and
45:08 she's screaming and I mean I fed her, I changed her, I'm cuddling
45:11 her, I'm singing to her and she just would not settle, so I just
45:14 put her in the cot and let her cry because there was nothing
45:18 more I could do. Well he comes in screaming, What are you doing
45:22 Just pick her up, pick her up and he didn't know that I'd been
45:26 trying to settle and he picked her up and went to take her out
45:30 of the room and she stopped just dead quiet. And I'm like I can't
45:34 get this right, I can't get my marriage right, I can't get
45:38 parenting right. And I lay on the bed and I just cried and I
45:41 all the... you know the devil when he just gets to you like
45:44 that and he fills your head with stuff; you've never been loved,
45:48 you're never going to be loved, you're never going to be a good
45:52 mom, you can't handle your own child, you've got your own
45:54 family now and you don't even care. God said to me, That's not
45:58 true. I love you and I'll never leave you and I'll never forsake
46:02 you. It was like an interjecting thought and I knew that that was
46:06 the voice of God and it was only a month later that I read that
46:09 verse in the Bible.
46:11 You know we have to take a break and I'm sorry to stop you
46:14 because that is such an amazing moment. But we're going to take
46:18 a break come back. Would you come back with us. Would you
46:21 close out. So we're going to take a break and come back.
46:23 and know that Danni has a few more things to say. I think it's
46:28 amazing just how faithful God is and how much he can heal,
46:33 how much he loves us. We'll be right back.