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FIVE Things I Found at the Women’s Retreat that Transformed My Life

by | Feb 22, 2024 | Counselor & People Helpers, Domestic Abuse, Survivor Stories, Survivors

As told by “Hope Marie,” written by Lauren Rose

In my 32 years of marriage, I endured every form of abuse possible. My husband was a sex addict from the beginning but then developed a drug addiction in the final four years of our marriage. He diverted narcotics from the hospital where he worked. The abuse I had previously experienced began increasing with the drug usage.

I was forced to flee for my safety. I went into hiding over 100 miles away from my abuser. To keep my location a complete secret, I couldn’t even let my grown children know where I was. I couldn’t get a job, lest my abuser be able to track me down, and thus had no funds to help me heal from the deep wounds that 32 years of abuse had left.

In 2021, a friend told me about Called to Peace Ministries and invited me to the He Makes All Things New Women’s Retreat. There was no way I could afford to attend, but I asked for a full scholarship. When I received word that generous donors entirely covered my registration and room, I broke down crying.

I came to the retreat hopeless, lost, and alone. I was unsure of who I was or what God had for me. I’m happy to tell you that I now don’t recognize that scared, despairing, lonely woman anymore. That retreat and every subsequent retreat have changed my life.

I found a community.

As an isolated woman in hiding, I didn’t have any community. At the retreat, I was surrounded by fellow women who were recovering from abusive marriages. I did not have to share details of my story with the ladies at the Women’s Retreat to receive acceptance or support—they already understood my struggle. I made new friends. I connected with CTPM advocates who shared invaluable information to help direct my steps on the path of healing. Most importantly, for the first time, I didn’t feel alone.

I found intimacy and connection with God.

Before my first retreat, I would have declared that I knew God intimately and had experienced His presence in some very dark seasons. However, the way that many spiritual leaders had responded to me when I had disclosed the abuse in our marriage had left me anxious to be around Christian teachers. At my first retreat, I would begin to shake each time a speaker began a session, terrified that they would shame me. But as they spoke, I was fed with the truth of God’s Word. I began to realize that my church leaders had misconstrued God’s Word concerning staying in abuse. I left with a deeper understanding of God’s heart and a more profound intimacy with Him. 

I experienced peace.

I experienced God’s presence and peace in each session. I felt like I was drinking from a firehose of inexhaustible comfort and wisdom. 

I was infused with hope.

God led me to ladies who were a few steps ahead of me on this terrifying journey. I was infused with hope as I heard testimonies of women who had come from similar situations and had found healing. 

I have attended every retreat since, and each one has brought more hope and healing.

In 2022, I volunteered at the retreat, eager to see what the Lord would do in my life. I roomed with some women who lived close to me, and they invited me to attend their CTPM support group. That group gave me hope and courage through my continued time living in hiding.

In 2023, I brought four friends to the retreat with me. I joined the retreat prayer team and had the privilege of witnessing God answering many prayers. God also plunged me into three separate situations where ladies were requesting medical assistance. Having a nursing background, I was able to provide these women with medical care in a safe environment. Before the retreat, I did not believe I could return to nursing due to complex PTSD from the abuse I had endured, but I found that God was flooding my soul with new courage and confidence. Perhaps I could return to nursing after all. A week after the retreat, I received a phone call from a nurse recruiter seeking to hire me for a specific pediatric case in my area. God was both healing my brain and opening doors to restore my love for pediatric nursing.

I’ve found redemption. I now have a new purpose, ministry, and confidence to carry out His plan for my life. My life has been transformed.

Because of that first scholarship, I’ve seen God’s redemptive work in my life, and I’m now able to share the hope, wisdom, and community I have with many women. I started leading a local CTPM support group and am in advocacy training to become an advocate. For the 2024 retreat, I am organizing a team of medical volunteers to support any attendees in need. I am now on a journey to give back what has been given to me.

To every donor who provided the means for me to attend this oasis of healing, thank you. Your gift is like a ripple—it first impacts one woman, then grows to reach countless others in turn. May God bless you a hundredfold!