Ephesians 6:10-13 Finally, my brethren, be strong in the Lord and in the power of His might. Put on the whole armor of God that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places. Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand (NKJV).

 The first time I became an eyewitness to Satan’s schemes was on the night I was arrested. Until that time, I viewed Satan as a distant character, not relevant to my life. Of course, I didn’t know scripture then. All I knew was he was cast out of Heaven and God was more powerful than him. I thought many times, “How strong could he be?” I didn’t comprehend, how I had to stand firm against his strategies and tricks. It wasn’t until I experienced his presence personally that I was no longer able to deny his evil nature or reality and his influence on me to sin.
Just minutes after the deputy brought me from our home to the patrol car, I looked back at my husband standing approximately 20 feet away. The porch light was shining on his face and revealed his rigid and unyielding posture. The deputy then told me I was going to jail. I responded, “Sir, please talk to my husband. He wouldn’t want this.” As the deputy put the cuffs on my wrists, he said, “Your husband was the one who told us to arrest you. He showed us the scratch marks on his chest and arms and said you did it. He also told us that you threw objects at him and threatened him with violence.”
I wanted to defend myself. I attempted to retell the real truth but the deputy smugly interrupted and said, “You are going to jail. You can go the hard way or the easy way!” I placed my hands behind my back and the deputy snapped the cuffs on. I then bowed my head and prayed the Lord’s Prayer out loud.
Again, I sought out my husband. This time, we locked eyes. I was hoping in my heart that he would come to the police car and admit what he had done. Instead, he just stared intently back at me and folded his arms across his chest in a hateful gesture.
            I will never forget the look in my husband’s eyes that night. His sinfully proud glare was shocking. He was clearly rejoicing in my suffering. I kept repeating to myself and the deputies, “That is not my husband.” In a very real way, that night, the spiritual world became my visual reality. In that moment, I couldn’t see any of my own failings, but my husband’s actions revealed how his heart was penetrated with sin. Both our pride and selfishness almost destroyed our marriage.  
After this night, I could no longer deny the power of sin and the existence of Satan. By writing this chapter, I do not give Satan free rein. I don’t believe everything bad stems from Satan’s schemes. I do believe though, Satan is prowling around when I felt tempted or distracted. I also know when I call upon God for help, He rescues me and Satan fades away.
A few months after my arrest, I started taking classes in the Seminarian program. Through class assignments, I read about biblical spiritual battles. I believe now my marriage was a battlefield against God.
            During our courtship, my husband agreed to participate in premarital counseling with the Base Chaplain. At the time, I professed to be a Christian and felt my husband should verbally commit his life and our marriage to God. After a few months, my husband acknowledged I was a Christian and planned to live as a Christian too. I trusted that a commitment made through a few statements about God was all that was necessary and proper.  
Within the first few months of our marriage, we were challenged regarding our faith. We became pregnant soon after the wedding but had a miscarriage only six weeks later.  I waited so long for a child and felt devastated by the loss.
My husband had lost his first son as a toddler. The sadness from our miscarriage seemed to surface the pain he felt from the loss of his first son. At first, my husband hid his feelings and showed me compassion. But when his own pain multiplied, he lost control. He became angry and we began to emotionally and spiritually tear apart. My husband turned to self-medicate; I sought prayer.
            Although we both agreed to allow time to heal from our loss, God knew my heart best and we became pregnant again right away. While pregnant, I accepted a new job at the local base chapel.  I related with fellow church members and found myself joyful and fired up for God. I was thrilled to be pregnant and I loved my new job!
I nervously watched my husband’s drinking and gambling increase. Day by day, he became angrier with me. As I gained weight during the pregnancy, he cracked “fat jokes” around the house. He encouraged hatred from his children directed towards me. If he wasn’t putting me down, he was giving me the silent treatment.
At the same time, I found comfort in church. I taught Vacation Bible School (VBS) and began to sing songs filled with scripture around our house. This seemed to fuel my husband’s anger. Now, nothing I did was good enough for him. Suddenly, my cooking was awful, the house was not clean enough and I talked too much. When I encouraged my husband to share his feelings, he became terribly irritable and angry.  
After several months of this verbal abuse, I felt angry too. I became defensive, sarcastic and controlling. I suggested we try counseling. Unfortunately, I was too self-righteous in my opinions and disliked the few counselors we met with.  We only attended a few sessions.  Eventually, we just stopped talking, period. I participated in additional church activities while my husband made extra trips to the golf course and drank.
Six months pregnant, I thought, “No more!”  I told my husband I was going to a shelter. I couldn’t accept our stifling and unhappy marriage any longer. He asked me to stay and offered to attend church with me on Easter and Christmas. I was thrilled to have him by my side in church, even if he was going as a “favor” to me.
As the years passed, we became desensitized to the fighting. We chose our battles.  However, our fights over Christianity and its role in our home, continued. Church on Easter and Christmas was it for my husband. No talk of Christ was permitted in our home. This banned movies about Christ, what I learned in church, spiritual songs being played on the radio: everything.
My husband was consistently angry and distant. Eventually, I grew weary by his rejection and started to feel isolated. I was exhausted from my attempt to lead my husband to Christ. I felt depressed. I knew I had no biblical reason to divorce my husband. As far as I knew, he had not committed adultery. In my mind, I had lost this battle. I had married an unbeliever, and he would remain an unbeliever, forever. I was stuck!
            I was convinced that my marriage was doomed to fail.  Yet, I didn’t run to God for help. Instead, I desperately sought after my husband’s approval.  I focused all of my attention on my husband instead of worshipping God. I was determined to make my marriage work.
I started accompanying my husband to a casino to gamble.  We watched movies I knew were wrong. I overate, attended church less and less and cursed often. I also told inappropriate jokes. It didn’t take too long before I had become everything I warned my husband about. I was miserable!
One night alone in our bedroom, I watched television and played games on my laptop. A short documentary was on a channel. The featured doctors asked for donations for the country of Haiti. I recalled happy memories of a mission trip I took years prior.  I wanted to be happy like this again and prayed for God to use me to help others in need. Four days later, my husband overdosed on prescription medication and physically hurt me.
 On the day I was arrested, I looked inward and saw how pride, self-righteousness, judgment and arrogance had taken over my heart. It was instantly crystal clear to me that the end result of choosing Satan’s path, the world and another man over God, led to suffering and hopelessness.  
            When I felt Jesus’ presence in jail later that night, I committed my future to God. I listed all of the many ways that I had let Satan rule over my heart. And, I told God I was sorry. Once and for all, I picked the correct team. I picked God. I made a public profession of my faith.  My husband followed my lead.
At work, after several attempts, my husband finally accepted an invitation from his supervisor to attend his church. Our sons and I were included as well. I was still cautious around my husband, so I drove my own car and met him at his supervisor’s church.
We sat together and listened while the Pastor spoke about forgiveness.  At the end of his sermon, the Pastor asked his wife up to the podium. She addressed the congregation and compelled anyone who was carrying the weight of a heavy burden to lay it down before God. She asked God to forgive those sins. Her words quietly yet firmly reached through to my husband’s heart. He started to stumble and his supervisor and I moved to catch him as he fell. We laid our caring hands on my husband’s broad shoulders as he knelt and sobbed. I felt moved by the sweet sound of his tears.
After church, I followed my husband’s truck to our home. When I arrived, I noticed my husband still sitting in his truck. I walked up to the truck and opened the driver’s door. My husband had both hands gripping the steering wheel and he was weeping as he listened to a song, “Live like you dying,” by Tim McGraw. That day, my husband accepted Christ into his heart. It was a miraculous and joyous moment for me. I was amazed!
My husband started attending church each Wednesday night. Through Christ, we began to slowly lay a foundation for our marriage.  As we both healed from past pain, our marriage healed too. Certainly, I thought, a defeated Satan had departed from my life.
Unfortunately though, Satan did not go away.  However, God protected me and provided a way of escape. He did not allow temptation beyond what I was able to handle.
On one attempt, Satan manipulated my youngest son to hurt me. At the time, my husband and I had been talking about finding a new home together.  However, his employer called and told him that he was immediately needed to supervise a crew of men assigned to clean up a recent gulf coast oil spill. The job was located miles across the United States. Without much option, my husband moved to Florida with an unexpected return date. He flew home once a month for a few days to be with us.
During this time, my youngest son begged me daily to stay home from preschool. He said some boys in his class were mean. On his last day of preschool, I watched my son approach three boys and ask if he could play with them. They told him, “No.” So, he asked if he could watch them play. The boys then told my son he couldn’t even watch them play. This rejection broke my heart.  Since summer was approaching, I kept him home and home schooled my son.
When the new school year began, I considered my alternatives.  We were uncertain whether my husband would return to our home state. I just couldn’t justify driving twenty minutes back and forth and paying the school’s high tuition since my son clearly disliked the school. We temporarily placed our son in public school while we waited for a permanent work assignment.
My son instantly loved his new kindergarten class and teachers. He made several new friends and couldn’t wait to go school each day. For the first time, he was returning home from school happy. He was interested in what he was learning and talked about friends he had played with during the day. Unfortunately, my son also brought home, new sayings and a very challenging attitude.
During the second month of school, my son began to act out.  It started one day, just after he woke up. My five-year-old was talking back to me! I was quite surprised since this behavior was contrary to his normal respectful attitude. Rather than hug me good morning as usual, with his baby blanket in arm, he walked straight past me and sat on the couch. His ugly attitude continued as I walked him to his kindergarten class. And, as soon as he returned home, he appeared rejuvenated with an even worse tongue. He repeatedly said, “You can’t make me,” to simple requests like, “Please put your lunchbox on the counter.” In one day, I had sent my son to more disciplinary timeouts than in an entire year. I retreated to think, “Where is my son, and who is this little person?”
            The next day, he started throwing his toys and had a tantrum when I instructed him to get ready for school and eat his breakfast. His anger was escalating. By now, so was my frustration. Normally he was obedient. I couldn’t believe we were having a power struggle.
            On the third day, around bedtime, my son asked if he could sleep with his shirt off. I told him he had to wear his shirt to bed because the apartment was cold at night and I didn’t want him to get sick. Unexpectedly, he said, “I want a new mommy!” His words shattered my heart. I was stunned and walked out of his room without finishing our normal bedtime prayer and routine. I cried, feeling lost.
 By the fourth day, I struggled to keep my adult head together. My son continued talking back and saying hurtful things, such as, “I want to go live with my daddy.” I told him I didn’t like the way he was treating me. He was acting downright mean. I asked about his school day and how the other kids behaved in class. “Are you copying someone in class who acts mean? Are you being picked on? Did someone hurt you?”  He just shook his head, “No” to each question. He even seemed confused by his behavior. 
            I began to sing, “Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand, against the devil’s schemes… be strong in the Lord.” My son sang the first part with me as he loves and knows the song well. During the song, I took a washable marker from the kitchen table to draw muscles on his arms and a shield on his chest with the word “GOD” across the shield. In my best Arnold Schwarzenegger voice, I mimicked, “Oh you have big muscles for God.” He laughed his normal laugh.
But then my son looked down at his chest, took the darkest colored marker from the table, and drew a big “X” across the word God. I sent him to bed, feeling very discouraged.
After he fell asleep that night, I went into his room to pick up his clothes. The pictures of our family on his dresser were lying face down. I left his room feeling emotionally and physically exhausted. What was going on?
            My first thought was to consider the impact of his father’s absence. But, then, we hadn’t lived with my husband in over a year and a half. Was he was feeling lost in public school? Finally, I excused his behavior as a result of being tired and adjusting to a new schedule. I reinstated naptime.  However, when he woke up from naps just as cranky and disrespectful, I ran out of excuses.
Feeling discouraged, I confided in a friend for help. This particular friend holds a special place in my heart.  She was the one I called upon my release from jail. Even though it was late at night and she had never driven without her husband at such a late hour, she insisted on being there to comfort me. I will never forget the gift of her sitting by my side and holding my hand in the lobby of the jail. She remained by my side as I waited for my parents to arrive. That night, we became more than work associates. Later, she would teach me about Scripture and encourage my walk with Christ. I came to rely on her for spiritual guidance as well as friendship in my life.  
 So naturally, I called this friend to discuss my youngest son. She listened quietly as she had always done. Then she spoke about spiritual battles. She asked if I thought my son was battling against me because I was writing this book to worship the Lord. In her usual sweet demeanor, she offered to pray for my son. She called on the Lord and asked Him to visit my son in his dreams. I cried as she spoke. Her prayer was comforting and instantly eased my anxiety. She also prayed for God’s protection for me.
            When she finished praying, my friend suggested that pray for my son while he slept.  After we ended the call, I took my bible to my son’s room. He was fast asleep. I made a cross on his forehead and chest and then prayed a very simple prayer, “God, please help me to help my son.”
            The next day, my son woke up and he was silent. Although he was not acting his usual jovial self, he was no longer acting disrespectful either. As he dressed, I erased all of the names on my prayer board and put my son’s name across the board in large letters. I told him what I did. He lit up! He hugged me very tightly around the neck as he questioned, “What about the others?” I replied, “You need my prayers right now.”
            My son put his jacket on for school. He then looked at the prayer board. He erased his name and wrote it again in even larger letters. Then he threw the hood of the jacket off his head, and said, “I am so mad right now.” I thought, here we go again!
I calmly asked, “What’s wrong?”  He said, “I am so mad at the devil for using me to say mean things to my mommy.”  My five-year-old son: so insightful. My eyes welled with tears.  I put my hands down, palm side up. He quickly slapped me “five.” In that moment, we were back to normal.
 We drove to school, and there he asked the other children if they believed in God. One child said he believed in dinosaurs. My son told him about God as they rolled their hula hoops around the blacktop. In the car, I silently thanked God for protecting my family from the devil’s schemes.
            In the months to come, I continually face situations requiring God's intervention. Each time, I prayed and relied on God. God responded and provided protection. As a result, I began to see attacks as an opportunity to declare God’s mighty power.
One day, while writing another chapter of this book and as the words of praise towards God poured out on paper, I heard the phone ring. I answered the phone thinking perhaps my husband was calling long distance. I heard a female voice and her words were broken.  It sounded as if a cell phone had a bad connection.  I could hear someone moaning and instantly knew that it was an obscene call. 

            In the past, I would have been angry and upset. I would say, “I am a Social Worker, I know all the judges and your call is being traced.”  Of course, the only truth was my position as a Social Worker. I didn’t know the judges and could not trace a call. But it was an effective method and usually stopped crank callers from calling back. However, this time, when she had paused, I said, “It sounds like you need prayer right now. Do you want me to pray with you?” The caller hung up.
            I returned to the desk to resume writing when the phone rang a second time. I checked caller ID and it read “private caller.” Incredibly, I remained calm. I answered the phone and the same voice asked, “So are you interested?” The call was much clearer now; I even heard background noises. Out loud, I prayed, “Please Lord Jesus, help this girl who feels that she needs to do this right now. Please Lord Jesus! I ask this in your precious name, Amen.” It sounded like she was crying before she hung up for the second time. I hadn’t fought evil with evil. I was compassionate and I sought God to help me fight against the ugliness.  
I looked at the picture of Jesus on my wall and said, “Lord, please work on her heart today. Convict her Jesus, so much, that she cannot make another call, even if she doesn’t know why. Let her tell this story when she receives Your grace. Thank you for allowing me to glorify you. Thank you for working through me and directing her to call me today. What a blessing! Thank you Lord.” Amen.
            Satan continued his schemes, but the attacks seemed like mere harassment. For instance, my cross necklace fell off my neck the day I was baptized. There was nothing wrong with the clasp and I had worn the necklace without fail for several years. But on the day of my baptism, the cross necklace fell straight to the ground. I giggled at his minor attempt to take my focus from God and used the situation to further praise God. The day was perfect. I even felt complete relief from pain I experienced the day before.  
Then on another day, while talking about our Holy God with a neighbor, I was attacked by bees. A bee even tried to fly up my dress. Again, I laughed at this ineffective attempt to interrupt my praise and worship of God. I continued to praise God to the new believer in front of me.  I said “I’m not going to stop praising God because of a little bee sting.” My neighbor watched as the bees bounced off me like flies.  I wasn’t stung, not even once.
            Even though these attacks by Satan are minor, I believe they were meant to prepare me. I am uncertain what the future holds, but I know I am called to evangelize, no matter the cost. Perhaps the lessons over the years were devised by God’s plan to strengthen me for what is to come.
I am confident that I made the right choice in surrendering my life to God and have lost the desire to sin. Trust is overcoming my anxiety and I finally feel at peace. I am surrendering every area of my life: my secrets, my sins and my rebellion to God’s will. In Christ Alone I choose to move confidently forward into the next phase of my journey. He is my strength, my hope and my light!
Post Script
As I finished writing this chapter, claiming my love and commitment to Christ, another amazing thing happened. I looked outside my kitchen door and noticed two white and gray doves crossing the street towards me. They were walking slowly. My immediate concern was that they would get hit by a car so I tried to coax them across the street. They continued to walk leisurely towards my door. The moment made an impression on me so I decided to grab my camera. Unfortunately, the doves flew away before I could take a picture.  I was curious as to the meaning of two doves. I went to the computer and searched on line for the significance of two doves. The explanation I found for the meaning of two doves together was simple. Two doves represented “everlasting love.” 
            Here I was writing a chapter on my devotion towards God and in another meaningful way, God confirmed He loves me too. I know God will remain with me always. His love endures forever!

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