Molestation to Marriage

My mother was addicted to drugs and was in and of incarceration due to petty crimes. When I was about 5 years old, I was removed from my birth mothers home by the Department of Children’s and Family (DCF). When I was found by DCF, I had been beaten to the point of being unrecognizable and severely molested. I lived in a hospital for a few months until I was well enough to be released and placed into a foster family. At the age of 6 years old, while still in foster care, I was molested by the son of the family babysitter. As the years went on, I blocked the memories of being molested out of mind. I wanted to live a normal life.

At 16yrs old I lost my virginity. I had never had any urges to have sexually encounters prior to losing my virginity. Although I was only 16, my body had matured into what looked like the body of a grown women. It often caused me to acquire a lot of unwanted attention. The gentleman that I experienced my first sexual encounter with was not even aware that I was a virgin. I remember us having sex, it hurt, I wasn’t mentally present, it was finished, and I got up and ran home. I never spoke to him again. I saw him often, but I wouldn’t allow him to ever touch me again. He did not molest me, it was completely consensual, but the experience made me feel uncomfortable.

From the time I lost my virginity, to the time I met my husband, I experienced various sexual relationships. I realized somewhere along the way that I could enjoy sex as long as I was in control. I controlled with whom, when, how, and how many times. When I met my husband, that all changed. My husband desired the parts of me that I withheld from previous partners, and I wanted to give him just that. But there was an issue. As he pushed me to explore parts of my inner self that I had buried so many years ago, it resurrected painful memories that were also buried. He would touch me and I would tense up and get stiff. He would kiss me in a certain place and I would flinch. It wasn’t that I didn’t want to let go and explore with him this new found desire, I just honestly couldn’t. The parts that he desired were the parts that had been taken from me many years before and I didn’t know how to take them back. One night while in the midst of a love making session, I began to cry. Of course he immediately asked me what was wrong. I finally broke down and explained to him that sometimes when we made love I had flashbacks of being molested. That when he was on top of me I didn’t feel like I was in control. That I was in a mental fight in mind to stay in the present but often times the past won. I couldn’t let myself truly become one flesh with the man that I called my King and I was ashamed. So what happens next? How do you fix this? The bible says in 1 Corinthians 7:3-4 that the husband should fulfill his marital duty to his wife, and likewise the wife to her husband. The wife does not have authority over her own body but yields it to her husband. In other words, I have no control. My husband, being the true King that he is, saw it differently. He chose to use his authority over my body as a way to further teach me the depth of his love for me. He began to prepare me for the journey of rediscovering those buried parts. He would talk me through every step. Before he would kiss me in a new place he would tell me what he was going to do and his touch would be ever so gentle. He would whisper how much he loved me in my ear. We began to talk afterwards about how each touch felt but more importantly how it made me feel. If I didn’t like it, he wouldn’t do it. If he could make the experience better, he did. He allowed me to have authority over what had been stolen from me.

As woman, we often don’t allow ourselves to lose control. We want to control every aspect of our lives out of fear of the unknown. The problem is when we attempt to control the atmosphere, we miss the collateral beauty. I call my husband a King because he provides me with protection and security. He treats me with consideration and respect and he’s careful not to be harsh with me. As Genesis 3:16 states, I have a desire for my husband that borders on disease. Because my husband recognizes this desire, he treats me with wise gentleness in all aspects of our love life and marriage.

Distress or Destiny in Disguise

This year has been quite defining for me. Through the various in and outs of life God is forcing me to define the relationships that I have held dear to my heart. Are they valuing my life or devaluing my worth. It’s been tough but it’s been necessary for my destiny as a wife, a mother, a child, a sibling, a friend but most importantly as a Christian. What i have learned this year is that Our destiny begins in the desert, but too often we avoid the desert, resent the desert, and isolate ourselves in the desert.

The struggle is what helps us build convictions and bond in relationships. The most internally weak, disconnected, and detached Christians are those who are unwilling to go through the struggle.

Whatever you’ve gone through over the past several years has not been in vain—it’s been God preparing you for a greater purpose. Hold on and stay focused. Troubles won’t and don’t last always!

35

Today I woke up and I was 35. I didn’t know how to feel. I normally despise my Birthday because most years my twin has been incarcerated so I felt guilty celebrating a day that was purposed to be shared. This year was different though. My twin is not incarcerated this year, but yet I was stuck. As I began to ponder what this year meant to me I just felt a sense of thankfulness. I’ve gone through a lot and overcome a lot more. The shame that once held me bound is now what catapults me into new territory’s everyday.

I wish I could tell my birth mother just how much I honor her for being obedient to the purpose God had for her. I know it couldn’t have been easy, making a choice to give up your babies. I know the day she stood at the door of our foster home and screamed for hours she felt like the worst mother in the world, but she dried her eyes, and she walked away. She knew that in order for me to fulfill my purpose, she would have to fulfill hers. Fulfilling her purpose meant that even two weeks before she died, when I called her over twenty times after being incarcerated for over 6 years, she would have to ignore my calls. She knew that what I desired from her, she wasn’t purposed to give me. She had already served her purpose.

I allowed my mother to depart this earth knowing her only daughter was angry with her. I held onto that anger for many years and when my Birthday came around I chose to treat it as the worst day of the year. I thought I was punishing her when in fact, I wasn’t being appreciative of the sacrifice she made in order for my purpose to be fulfilled.

So today, I turned 35. Today I honor my birth mom for her courage. Today I choose to walk in my purpose with boldness, because I owe her that. Today I choose to laugh when the enemy wants me to cry. Today I choose to love when the enemy wants me to hate. Today I choose to be free when the enemy desires to see me bound. Today I choose to just be Simply Sana Latrease.

At the end of trying to find the life i was looking for, God took my shriveled heart and filled it, empowering me to become the woman He always envisioned me to be. The beauty I now possess is much more than skin deep; it’s heart deep. Hello chapter 35.

Unfinished does not equal Unworthy

Although I am a product of the DCF system, I have been molested, beaten, cheated on, lied to and abandoned. I survived, I WAS JUST UNFINISHED.

Looking back on that season of life, I wish I could pull my younger self close and tell her that one day she’d feel a little less unfinished. I wish I could tell her God was 100% tuned in to the beauty of who she was becoming. And I’d tell her that she was not alone, there were a lot of people around her who were also unfinished in some way. Because here’s what I’ve learned:

Unfinished doesn’t equal Unworthy.

I will not allow you to Fail

So as I am REdiscovering my worth as a mother, and REdefining what being a mother means to me, I have had to come to terms with the fact the although I was a young mom, made a ton of mistakes, and in my eyes failed in many areas, it is NOT too late to start over.

After the year my husband and I had with our son in school last year, I decided to quit my great paying job at the end of 2016 and focus on him and Janai, but mainly him, this year. I had to stop feeling guilty for his bad judgement and lack of hard work concerning his school work and start holding him accountable. Sometimes it means that on beautiful days like today, I am forced to tell him No, you can not go to the Y to play basketball or hop on your Xbox for the entire weekend, today, your going to do your homework, and complete the assignments that you thought you could NOT turn in and I wouldn’t find out about them. I feel awful when he looks at me like I’m the worst parent on the planet, huffs and puffs and walks off with an attitude, but I quickly call him back (attempt not to smack him into last week for being disrespectful), look him in the eyes and tell him that, I refuse to allow him to fail. He hates me now but he’ll love me later. Then I go in my room, look myself in the mirror, dry my tears and remind myself, that I am a good mom, I made mistakes, I am unfinished but not UNWORTHY to be his mom. Are ya’ll following my intentional parenting journey? It may be ugly sometimes but it’s my truth. #Hewillwalkthatstage #getthatdiploma #enrollincollege #theniwillbreathe

Life. Remastered.

What if we dared to believe God could do anything — anything at all — in and through us?

God births supernatural things through women. He whispers to our imperfect hearts and beckons us to believe His stunning promises. Even when we’re a hot mess. When we dare to believe Him, He is honored. He is glorified. And His promises begin to unfold.

“I know that You can do all things, and that no thought or purpose of Yours can be restrained or thwarted.” Job 42:2

Life. Remastered.

I had to learn to be a Present Parent.

When I found out I was pregnant with my first child, I had no clue of what kind of a parent I wanted to be. I just knew that I was bringing a child into the world and I would be responsible for their life. Since I had been in foster care and then ultimately adopted, I experienced various versions of what parenting looked like. In my opinion, none of them were great, but there was definitely something that could be seen as nuggets to take from them.

When my son was born I did what I felt was the best I could do. He was well taken care of and most of the time, if he wasn’t with his godfather, he was with me. Now this is where I have to accept my own truth. He was with me. Wherever I went, whatever I did he was there. Thankfully I was never a drinker or a smoker of any kind, but if I argues with his father, he was there. If I busted the windows out of his father’s car, or slashed his tires, he was there. When I almost murdered his father, he was there. I was so busy trying to get his father to love me and spend time with us, oops, I mean spend time with me, because let’s just be honest, we, yup I said we, you and I, have both at some point used our child as bait to see their father when we THOUGHT, we had found true love and was scared to lose it. I was so busy chasing him that I didn’t take the time to make quality memories with my son. I didn’t read to him before he went to bed, or pray over him before he went to daycare. We didn’t go to the park, or enjoy activities that would stretch his imagination.

I did although, make sure I put the fear of God in him. He knew that I wasn’t to be played with and that he better behave at all times. I taught him how NOT to treat a women, by allowing him to see me cry after his father and I got into a physical altercation, and he was the one that wiped my tears.

When I had my daughter, life was so different. I was married and what most would consider more stable. Due to medical issues that faced, my daughter stayed home with me until she was able to attend preschool. During that time she was my shadow. Up under me from morning until night. She saw me clean the house, do laundry, pay bills, grocery shop, etc. We read books together, I taught her how to count, say her alphabet, spell and write her name and a plethora of other things.

When she went to preschool, I went back to work for the first time in 3 1/2 years. In my mind, I had a lot of time to make up for. We started the camp at the church and I also started my first job in property management. I wasn’t getting paid much and realized quickly that if I wanted to make more money, I was going to have to work my way up the corporate ladder, which meant longer hours away from home, and then bringing work home on most nights. I worked these long hours for seven years. During that time I can’t begin to tell you how many moments I missed with my babies. Sure, Josh was there and he filled in for both of us, but those are moments I should have been there for.

In Jamir’s final semester of Freshman year, everything came to a head. He was literally failing every class. I knew that he was struggling and had been emailing and meeting with his counselor and teachers all year to get a plan in place to help him, but the school gave me the runaround almost the entire year. They wanted to try different strategies before scheduling testing for a any learning disabilities. In the midst of that I noticed a change in him. He was sleeping all the time, staying in his room, dropped off the football team, his attitude was terrible. I didn’t make it any better. Instead of taking the time to not just listen to him but HEAR him, I was yelling at him and telling him how disappointed and stressed out I was due to his lack of interest in his future. He just completely shut down.

I would lock myself in the bathroom and just cry, I felt like I had failed him as a mom. One day during my prayer time God said to me, “You are going to have to accept accountability of your own actions. It’s time to make some changes, what are you going to do?”. I knew then that I had to completely change my parenting mindset. Although I couldn’t make up for the past, I could definitely reshape the future.

So I resigned from my job at the end of 2016. I demanded the support my son needed in school to be put in place and put a dream team of support in place for him over the summer, starting with myself. I changed the way I spoke to my kids. Even when they needed to clean their rooms, I used a different approach. I didn’t yell or demand they do it. I asked and then thanked them for completing it. It may sound crazy to you but it’s made a world of difference in our home. Josh and I have taken time to sit down, and just get to know our kids. We ask them questions about our parenting skills that force them to be honest with themselves even when it hurts us. We give them space to just be themselves. Be who God created them to be, not who we imagined they would turn out to be. It’s not always easy. Sometimes I have to catch myself before I fly off the handle, I have a long way to go, but I know I’ve come a long way.

The two most important lessons I’ve learned this year as I have made the decision to intentionally parent is this; be transparent. Let your kids know that you have made mistakes, your not perfect, and the second is, although I am the same parent, I have to parent them differently. They are very different and have different needs from me as a mom. Janai is a little bit more independent while Jamir requires a little more hand holding, and that’s okay. I can be to each of them whatever they need me to be.

This week, as I prepare for school to begin, I plan to do a few things to make this year run smoother and for us to connect deeper as a family. I’ve implemented family devotionals, Affirmation boards throughout the house, I’ll be putting prayer clothes throughout my home and in my children’s book bags, we will be praying more frequently together, but most of all, I just plan on being a present, parent.

Are you speaking to the King or the Fool?

In 1999 I was dating this dude. He was my first real boyfriend and he was completely HOOD, but dude was DEEP, you hear me? We would sit around for hours, him talking, and me soaking up all of his street knowledge. It was from him that I leaned about being loyal in a relationship, but most importantly he gave me a nugget that stayed embedded in my brain for years after, he said "The worst thing you can do to a man is speak to him like he's a women." It wasn't until years later that I would realize the depth of that nugget.

When my husband and I first met I was coming out of a toxic relationship. While in that relationship, I learned to defend myself with my hands, but I realized that using my tongue landed more punches. See, we could get into a physical altercation and eventually it would end and all would be well, but the words that came from my mouth was ever present. Long after an argument, he was most likely replaying it in his head, and it hurt. So that's what I did. You could hurt me physically but I was going to hurt you mentally.

Unfortunately, I carried that same defense mechanism into my new relationship. When I had to deal with the judgement of the church members, I would go home and take it out on Josh. When they would make slick comments about why he was with me, I would go home and take it out on Josh. I would tell him that he never defended me, and because of that, he became the enemy.

As the years went on, I began to ask God to show me where this behavior was stemming from. Why did I talk to the man that loved me with every breathe in his body like he was poop on the bottom of my shoe? God revealed to me that I was still in defense mode. I was walking through my marriage with my hands up in fight position because I was scared to be vulnerable. I was still broken from my last relationship and I expected my husband to put me back together. I placed all of my frustrations, insecurities, and burdens on my husband with the expectation that as the "husband" he would provide me the healing that I was searching for. Of course when he couldn't, I made him feel as bad as I felt. I know he had to be miserable those first 5 years of marriage.

In year six I realized that the only man that could heal my heart and put my broken pieces back together was the man I didn't see and spent no time seeking. The man who knew me before my mother knew my father. The man who has wonder working power, who you ask?, Jesus of course!

As God began to do his cleanup work within me, he spoke to me about the wife he needed me to be. I needed to be like Esther, a wife of noble character. "Well God", I asked, "what does that look like?". This is what he told me:

Every man has both a king and a fool in him.  Which ever one is spoken to the most – the one that is nurtured and developed – is the one he will become. For years you have been speaking to him like he was a fool when in fact I made him a king.

Well dang God, you just laid me out real quick. I was quickly reminded of that little nugget that was deposited into me years before by a man who saw me heading toward destruction, I was talking to my man, like he was a women (those are Street terms, LOL). He went on to say:

Speak to the king in your husband. The more you speak to the king in him, the more he will believe it and become it. Sana, you have been graced to minister to Josh in ways that NO ONE ELSE CAN, OR SHOULD!

Let me tell you something, I changed what came out of mouth, how it came out of my mouth and WHEN it came out of my mouth real quick! I became what my sister in Christ calls me, The Husband Cheerleader. I'm the head of the Joshua E. Cotten fan club, you hear me?? I began to pray over him in his sleep. Send him sermon titles and he wasn't even preaching yet, I encouraged him when he was down but most importantly, I used that same tongue that the devil had me using as a weapon against my husband, as a way to speak life into him.

Now I am certainly not a perfect wife, in fact, I am quite the handful, but I honor my king with everything in me. If you know Sana, then you know I don't play when it comes to my Joshie (he's going to kill me, lol).

I Thank God for his grace and mercy and for sending me a husband that saw past all of my broken pieces. I Thank God for giving my husband the power to see me through the eyes of the Heavenly Father who has perfect vision.

Hear me now, it wasn't just my words that God required me to change toward my husband. There were other areas that I had to make some changes. I know, you're probably saying to yourself, "I speak to my significant other just fine", but what other areas is God nudging you to change in?

Are you controlling? The Bible says in Proverbs 21, " It is better to live in a tent in the wild than with a cross and petulant spouse".

Would your significant other compare you to an irritating and unrelenting drop after drop of an unwanted and unwelcomed leaking faucet? That’s how Solomon described a nagging wife; as a source of annoyance, aggravation and frustration in Proverbs 19.

It's not to late to change your heart towards your significant other. Remember, God has created a King within him, and every King deserves a Queen.

Confessions of a Preachers Wife.

"That's going to be my husband." Those were the words I stated to my cousin the first time I laid eyes on the tall, chocolate brother I saw standing outside of the church I was visiting for the first time. I knew nothing about him, not who he was and certainly not Whose he was. We exchanged numbers that day, went on our first date the following Friday and essentially moved in together by Monday. It seriously happened that quick. It didn't take long for me to find out that the tall, chocolate brother, was actually the Pastors youngest son and I had walked into a spotlight I wasn't ready to be seen under. One week I walked in as a visitor and the next week I walked in as the new girlfriend of the biggest catch in the church, but to me he was just Josh.

As we began to get to know each other it began quite obvious that we were exact opposites. He was the youngest of his father's three sons, laid back, loud, spoiled, and a true comedian. I was serious, direct, a hard worker and had never had a thing handed to me. The one thing we did have in common was that we had both approached a time in our life where God had given us a final ultimatum, and we were each others heaven sent angels.

When I met Josh I was a single mom, I had no vehicle, I was working full time at a medical office, my son was in daycare, I had just gotten my own place in New Britain and I was broken. Josh had no children, was living in the house his mom left for him and his siblings, was driving a Jaguar and was hustling. Hustling was an immediate no-no for me. So we agreed that until he was able to secure a legit job, I would hold us down. I helped him find a position through a temp agency which turned out to be great. Josh and my son hit it off immediately and it wasn't long before he was calling Josh daddy. Life was looking up, at home at least.

We went to church every Sunday. Josh was a musician but not only that, even in the midst of his mess, he was committed to being at church on Sundays. Church wasn't new to me as I have always been involved in church as a child, but as an adult, this was something I would need to get used to. Week after week I would attend church. I would sit in a pew on the right hand side, in the middle of the section, with my son, and I would hear the saints whisper about me. I would feel them looking me up and down as they cast judgement toward me. Everyone wanted to know where I came from. All types of stories began to manifest and I had no time for it. Every time someone approached me with a slick comment I returned a slick response. It got to the point where whenever I came through those doors I put my guard up. Josh's favorite response whenever I complained to him was, "Who cares what they say, their not doing anything for you." It was easy for him to say but much harder for me to accept.

As time went on, we discussed marriage and starting a family. He was always very clear that he wouldn't rush into marriage unless he was sure I was the one, and I was very clear that I was not about to be playing house for years.

On July 4th, 2007, ten months after meeting, Josh proposed to me at a church picnic in front of all of our close family and friends. I was completely surprised. Our families wanted us to have the big wedding but we knew we didn't want to wait. There was a heaviness on our hearts about living in sin. We both knew better and as we were growing together, our walk with Christ was becoming more important. So on August 16, 2007, in a small ceremony with just our parents, at his parents house, we pledged our love toward each other and took vows to love, honor, and protect each other in both good times and bad. We later had our big wedding in November of that same year.

This was the beginning of when I realized that the calling Josh had on his life was real. For the next few years his parents began to groom us for what was to come. I won't say that I resisted, but I refused to be anyone other than myself. The problem was that "myself" had a dangerous tongue game, trusted absolutely no one and had no patience for any nonsense and I was unashamed of my past. I was definitely not what the wife of a man who was called to ministry looked like. Unfortunately for Josh, this meant that he was often put in uncomfortable positions that required him to have my back in public and then chastise me in private. I was not used to being chastised, especially when I felt I was right and was not being supported by my husband, so a simple conversation would be escalated to an all out argument real quick. Needless to say we didn't have good communication skills at all during those first few years of marriage.

One Sunday, a guest preacher came to our church. He had known Josh and his family for many years and also knew my family as well. In the middle of his sermon, he called us out. In front of the entire congregation he began to prophesy to us. He told us all that God had in store for us and it scared the living day lights out of me. I just wanted to be married and in love. I wasn't trying to be deeply involved in ministry. I knew Josh was called but I figured his calling had nothing to do with me. Boy was I wrong.

Josh was getting closer to accepting and publicly acknowledging the call to preach. Meanwhile, I found myself angry; angry at the church. The very place that God was calling my husband to serve in. I was tired of people ignoring my presence as a wife. I was tired of the whispering and the judgement. I was tired of feeling like I couldn't be free in Christ because the saints didn't like what my freedom looked like. So week after week I came to church wearing a mask. Suppressing all that I knew God had in store for me and becoming ashamed of my own story. I felt like I wasn't good enough.

God had to do some real work on my heart and that's exactly what he did. First I had to be honest with who I was and acknowledge that I wasn't always right, I did more speaking than listening, not everyone was against me, and that was stopping my own growth. I did a lot of crying, a lot of asking God why me? if it was going to take this much work to get me where I needed to be, why not choose someone else who was further along and more equipped for the calling? When he spoke he spoke clearly, this wasn't about Josh. This wasn't about his calling, this was about Sana. This was about Sana's calling. He had given me enough time to get myself together, I hadn't heeded the call and now my anointing was on the line.

During Josh's initial sermon I was at the lowest point of our marriage. God was still working on my heart and it was painful. Through it all, I still had a job to do as a wife. A purpose to fulfill. God was elevating my husband and I had a position to play. I was so excited to see my husband accepting and walking into the call God had in his life. He did it with ease. Full of so many dreams and ideas for the youth of our church and he was quickly announced as the Youth Director. As he began to put things in order I fell into place as well. Whatever capacity he required of me I was there to fulfill it. We decided that he would focus on solely on ministry and the needs of the church. I continued to work my full time job and support us financially during the day and then assist him in the evenings. Although we were opposites, we each held a gift that was needed to achieve the vision that our Pastor had for our church and specifically, the youth department. God continued to work on my heart and I was finally in a place where my heart was healed. My heart started to change when I realized that the people in my church who were causing me grief deserved the same measure of grace that God had given to me.They were human too. God was still working in their hearts. They needed his redemptive work in their words and relationships just as much as I did.

And you know what else? They were not my responsibility. God has called me to submit my own tongue, my own actions, and my own heart to His lordship. For me, that included letting Him show me how to fall in love with His bride, the church, even when she didn't behave perfectly.

It wasn't long before I began to feel God urging my heart to fulfill my purpose as a sinner saved by grace. That meant I needed to tell my story. I needed to be present for young women who were struggling with the heaviness of life. Those women that God had purposely connected to my purpose. But where did I start. How could I focus on those things when I was working 60+ hours per week at my secular job and then working alongside my husband and inlaws in ministry. Not to mention I was a mom of two busy children who desired my attention. Excuses. So many excuses. I had to acknowledge my fears and push myself past them. There was a work he was calling me to do and he was tired of my excuses….and my fear.

My husband was finally recognizing that there was much more to me than just being his wife. He began to urge me to do the things I had shared with him, the things God had placed on my heart. I worked tirelessly and from it came Pearls of Grace. My first event that was geared toward empowering women who looked like me, who felt like me and who desired more of God in every area of their lives. At the end of the evening I felt liberated, but most of all, God had received the Glory.

Free. That's how I finally felt, free. I had finally gotten to a place of true freedom in Christ. Free to be me along side a giant.

Why am I telling you this?

Because some of you are where I once was. I understand the pain that some of you are feeling. The expectations that others have placed on you have become a burden that feels too heavy to bear. This isn’t what you signed up for.

I know you’ve faced unrealistic expectations, unfair standards, and harsh criticism. Why? Because you are worshipping alongside imperfect people. But you all have something in common, your worshipping a perfect God. A God who has a will and purpose for their life just as well as yours.

I categorize myself as a novice preacher’s wife, I am still learning, growing and navigating my way through this very unique role. I still really don’t know what I am doing and just strive to be my authentic self. I thank God on a regular basis for my Giant. God used him to save me from myself.

I am by no means your regular Preachers Wife, and I am okay with that. I'm an open book, and these are my confessions.