Is it possible to find your life-purpose when you are in an abusive, destructive relationship? Absolutely! Listen, there are four critical truths to know:
The first and most important truth you must grasp is that your purpose is absolute, no matter what your circumstances are telling you. What you are living through, right now, is not the life God created for you. In my book Rise, Lydia Green is struggling to live with her abusive husband. In her darkest moments, hope rises to light her way when she makes a discovery that could transform her life.
The second truth you must understand is that change begins with choice Lydia’s discovery will come to nothing if she doesn’t use the free will she was born with. The journey up begins with a choice to grab the lifeline. You have the power to choose. Use it now.
The third truth you must have is that you need a village. Don’t do it alone. The moment she chooses to change direction, Lydia’s eyes are opened to see that she is not alone. Look around, there are people who will help you and support you in your journey. Sometimes they appear as if by magic the moment you decide to move in a different direction.
The fourth truth must be a mindset: Setbacks are not stop signs. Don’t give up, ever. Life continues to happen to Lydia, but she resolves to keep going. Your purpose is too important to ever give up on.
Out of the huts of history’s shame
Up from a past that’s rooted in pain
I’m a black ocean, leaping and wide
Welling and swelling I bear in the tide
Leaving behind nights of terror and fear
Into a daybreak that’s wondrously clear
Bringing the gifts that my ancestors gave
I am the dream and the hope of the slave.
t was a late spring day when Pearl Williams died. The sunshine poured through her sheer white curtains and her room was sweet with the fragrances of fresh flowers. They were lovingly placed so she could see them when she woke from her long, medicated sleeps. But that day she was alert. The hospice nurse had propped her up among her fluffy pillows. That was how Lydia Green found her when she came to visit on a break from the store. She was surprised to see her awake.
Pearl caressed the space beside her. “Lydia, baby, do you remember that poem, the one by Maya Angelou? Still I Rise? Say it with me.”
The familiar words forced themselves through Lydia’s throat, in strained whispers. She struggled to finish, while Pearl’s voice was triumphant and strong to the end. It was the strongest she had heard it in many weeks.
“Listen. The angels are cheering you on, Lydia. God created you for something better than this. You’re smart, you’re beautiful, and you’ve got gifts to share with the world. The life you have now is not the life you were meant to live. You’ve got to promise me one thing. Take the money I’m leaving for you and get out of that prison. Rise, baby. Promise me, you’ll rise.”
“Mama, oh Mama,” Lydia said, sobbing.
Pearl’s moist hazel-brown eyes were fixed on her. “Please.”
“Yes, yes Mama, I promise.”
Her breathing softened. Her eyes closed. Her bony fingers loosened their hold and slipped away.
Lydia cried out. She woke up and clamped her mouth, glancing over at her snoring husband. He didn’t stir. She loosed her hand. The last minutes of Pearl Williams life, even a year later, were coming to her clearer than ever. And in two mornings she would be sitting in a church listening to her being memorialized by the faithful who adored her. They would list all her accomplishments as a musician, teacher, single mom and tireless servant of God. What they wouldn’t talk about was that promise made at her death bed; only Lydia and God knew of it and she wasn’t going to tell. It was a promise she could not keep.
She had chosen this troublesome path by getting pregnant and marrying Silas Green. His already black heart grew darker over the years, until she could no longer see the man she thought she’d married. The wisdom her mother tried to give her was like thorns in her spirit. She walked in perpetual darkness daily, taking care of his family’s store and trying to make a home for him and their seventeen year old daughter Nikki. Nikki was the light of her life, the hope she held onto of something better. Lydia believed it was too late for her dreams. But Nikki still had a chance. The money Pearl had saved was enough to send her baby girl to college.
Lydia gazed up at the ceiling fan as it whirred gently and circulated the hot air over her slender brown body. The sweet memories of her childhood love slipped unbidden before her mind’s eye. But just as quickly the brief light disappeared, shrouding her thoughts once again in darkness. She would never forgive herself for walking away from him. That love was lost to her forever.
The constant pain around her heart was like a volcano on the verge of eruption, but she refused to let it. Above all things she had to survive. Eventually the pain would surrender to her determination, yet it never quite went away.
Five a.m. Lydia climbed out of bed and walked across the carpeted hallway to the bathroom. She turned on the light. She dreaded what the mirror was going to say to her after a night of crying. Her eyes were red and droopy. They were like small chocolate drops perfectly placed in smooth honey, curved slightly at the corners on either side of her slender nose. Her page boy cut sat straight up in places. Nothing a good brushing and some hair gel couldn’t fix.
Lydia loved the noise of the shower running; it was peaceful and settling. The smooth, cool liquid was delicious on her skin. Only here she could truly relax and not think about the world she had to walk through every day. When she emerged, her skin chilled briefly then began to sweat while she dried off. She covered herself in French vanilla lotion and a light musk spray. She savored the sweet scents, a stark contrast to the sweaty, sour odor of liquor-breath hanging on the walls of her bedroom. She dressed quickly so the smell wouldn’t have time to stick to her clothes.
5:59 a.m. The little green numbers on the coffee machine glared at her until she turned on the kitchen light. Lydia washed the dishes, wiped counter space and looked in the refrigerator for breakfast. She found a loaf of bread, a half-gallon of milk, and a half-filled container of orange juice. There was a box of cereal on top of the fridge.
“Lydia!” Silas yelled. “Where is my red shirt?”
Lydia glanced at the overflowing laundry basket sitting near the basement door. “In the wash.”
“Get it out and bring it here.”
Silas was sitting on the bed, his back to her. He had grown wider over sixteen years, a far cry from the muscle-packed young man she married. The muscles had softened and his hair turned into a bushy nest for lint. He snatched the shirt from her.
Lydia backed to the doorway. “Why are you up so early?” She asked.
“I got stuff to do.”
“Will you come by the store today? I need help putting supplies away.”
He sucked his teeth. “That’s your problem. I’m going now to pick up the money you’re so scared to deposit at night.”
“Really? How come?”
“Will you shut up with the questions? I feel like it, that’s how come. Don’t look for me ‘till supper. And get some damn food in this house.”
When the door slammed behind him, loneliness overwhelmed her. She saw herself standing on the edge of a rocky cliff, looking down at the roaring waves below. They seemed to rise higher, their frothy tips opening like hands to catch her. If she took one step, it would all be over and she would finally be able to rest. The only person who kept her away from it was her beloved daughter. Yet the more time went on, the more she wondered if Nikki would be better off without her. Nikki Green had no trouble filling in the silence all the way to Brockton High. She complained and joked about everything from her English class to the school lunches. A quick glance at her coffee-colored offspring brought a smile to Lydia’s lips. She had done her hair in tiny braids placed in neat rows all over her head. Her ears were weighted down with large hoop earrings. Around her neck hung several gold chains, all given to her by her Nana. The only make-up she wore was a touch of sparkled brown lipstick. She was beautiful.
“Can you pick me up after school? I don’t feel like walking,” Nikki said when they reached the drop-off spot.
“No, baby. I’ve got too much to do at the store. You have your house keys, right?”
“Yeah. What about Daddy?”
“I don’t know his plans. Go, or you’ll be late.” Lydia kissed her cheek lightly. “Love you.”