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Scott and Loriann Sonntag, Morgantown, WV

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On August 5, my family and I shared our faith with our church family and friends through baptism—a date that will remain special to us for the rest of our lives.

Four years ago our family began a journey through a very dark valley in our life. Our daughter was dating a new boyfriend and as we had done with past boyfriends, we welcomed him into our family and even brought him to church with us. However, it did not take long for us to see a change in our daughter and this relationship led to two and a half years of heartache, pain, strain in the family, and struggles with our faith. Our daughter had found her way into an abusive relationship and did not know how to get out. She blamed her pain and hurt on me, turned the abuse on our family, and I in turn, yelled at God for my heartache. I cannot describe the darkness in our life, in our home, and in her room…There were times when you could physically feel the fear and grief in the house. I grieved the loss of her innocence, the loss of her faith, and the literal loss of the daughter I knew. She would be forever changed and so would our family. The once strong trio of sisters split apart as the remaining two tried desperately to lean on each other despite the pain and anger from their sister. Our marriage remained strong although I struggled with the weight of the abuse on my own at home, while Scott, my truck-driving husband, struggled with hearing everything over the phone and trying to comprehend, from a distance, what was happening to our family.

The one constant through all of our pain was our church. Walking through the church doors on Sunday morning gave me relief—a time when I felt that I could surrender everything to Jesus. You see, I’m not all that good at giving everything over to God and I was desperately trying to fix things on my own. Those Sunday mornings offered me strength—and the will to go on for another week, another day, or another minute. We started counseling at our church but the last place my daughter wanted to be was our church as she harbored a severe dislike for anything related to prayer or God. She felt that God had left her fall and that He was no longer there to help her back up. Eventually, I had to put her into an adolescent unit due to threats of suicide. I was angry, but at the same time relieved because I had one weekend in which I did not have to worry about where she was, who she was with, and when her anger would be turned on the family again. She continued to voice her hatred for me on a daily basis and became physically abusive to me and to Scott. It got so bad one evening that we had to call the state police because that was the only way that we could defuse her anger.

That night I knew that I had to let go…that I had to let God take over…that everything my church had taught me had to be put into play. I prayed with all my heart. I told God that I surrendered everything to Him—that I could no longer do it on my own—that I was putting my daughter into His hands—that if He needed me to let her go and give her to Him, that I was willing to do that. My heart hurt. Every muscle in my body ached and I felt like I had run a marathon…but at the end of that prayer, I felt some peace. I knew that no matter what happened from here—that God would be in charge—that He would guide us and lead our family in the right direction.

That prayer led to a connection with a new therapist and the beginnings of individual and group therapy for my daughter. I fully believe that God led us to this therapist and to the group that she was put in. She was around peers her own age who were going through similar situations—and although she was still very angry, we did start to see a change. However, we still had a long way to go and the real changes did not begin until she finally broke the relationship with the young man who was abusing her. I believe that God had a hand in that as well because he was sent away to a group home…leaving her behind. This allowed the healing to finally begin, for her, and for us as a family.

I know for a fact that I will never know everything that my daughter went through in her relationship. Maybe someday she will feel comfortable enough to share—but I do know that the abuse was extensive enough to leave lasting scars. She lost her innocence, she lost her faith, she almost lost her family, and she lost herself—the daughter that I loved so very much. I struggled on a daily basis with grief…I felt like my child had died and another one had taken her place. Once again I asked God for help, for myself, for my daughter, and for my family.

God did help us, but in His own time. It took two and a half years to travel through that valley and begin to see the sunlight again. Four years later, we have completed our journey and our baptism brought us full circle. Our daughter has returned to God and to her family. She has renewed her faith and it is stronger now than it ever has been. The trio of sisters has strengthened once again and my husband and I have had the privilege of watching our daughters grow in their faith through good times and bad. God loves us so much and I am grateful that He gave our precious daughter back to us. Once again we are a family, sharing in our love for each other, but more importantly, sharing in our love for God. There are scars remaining from our battle but we are working on healing from those as well. Although the girls have mended their relationship—the hurt and heartache is still evident at times. My husband still struggles with guilt for being so far away during that time in our lives, and I struggle with an illness known as fibromyalgia—brought on by the shear amount of stress and heartache during those two and a half years. Although my physical pain continues on a daily basis, my heartache is healing and God’s love is once again evident in our family.

We thank God every day for our renewed family and for the chance to share our Christian love with each other and with our church family. Although I may have faltered in my faith, I know with all of my heart that God never let go of me, my daughter, or my family and He will not let go of you either. Whatever you are going through in this life—hold onto this verse…Jeremiah 29:11 ‘For I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the LORD, ‘plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.’ Remember that we are ALWAYS in God’s hands—He watches over us, guides us, and helps us through dark times “and joy comes with the morning!” May God bless each of you!

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