This is a story of faith, of love, of peace, of friendship, of perseverance, and of overcoming against all odds. When my husband (my soul mate) and I decided to get married in the Catholic Church after each having a failed civil marriage fraught with abuses, we had no idea we would be entering into spiritual warfare. But what God needs from each of us is never clear, and is rarely what we expect, as we so clearly learned over the last 2 years.
After becoming engaged to be married, the attacks began. The fractured relationships we had with parents and siblings permanently cracked. Though excruciatingly painful, we followed our hearts, left our families and held fast to one another to become one flesh. But that was only the beginning.
Married in March of 2017, we continued headlong down the path of spiritual enlightenment and detachment from worldliness. Around the time of our nuptials, my compensation was cut by over 40% so that the executives in the company could make more money. Shortly thereafter, the Fox River flooded, leaving our subdivision quite literally underwater for 22 days, necessitating the use of boats to come and go from our home. The losses piled up and our savings and retirement funds grew smaller.
I held on to employment for 7 months before having a “come to Jesus” moment and deciding that if we couldn’t pay our bills, we may as well do what we love. I would commit myself to following my purpose, being guided by my heart, and having faith that God would take care of us in the process. So I gave notice and dove full-time into entrepreneurship, my last day of employment being October 13, 2017.
But before we could gain any traction, our life was rocked once again. We had more suffering to endure so that we could let go of our arrogance, our fears, and our attachments to worldly objects, and even to people.
On December 10, 2017, we took my step-children to the police station and filed a report with DCFS. After hearing about physical abuse and terror tactics from the then twin 4-year-olds for the preceding year, we were pushed to the point of needing to take action when they accidentally disclosed starvation and sexual abuse. Though we had nothing but the words and consistent behaviors of two young children, we couldn’t stand by idly any longer.
The next day, in retaliation, their mother filed an order of protection against my husband because he “stared at her in the police station” on December 10, and she alleged that he sexually abused her in 2014 (though she had no evidence and their divorce agreement contained a hold-harmless clause). With these statements alone, he was deemed inherently dangerous to not only her, but to his own children. The judge granted the order of protection ex parte, without him present to defend himself. And when our SUV wouldn’t start for the first time in its life on January 2, 2018, and we had not a dime to our name, we didn’t make the hearing. The judge granted the order of protection to be stayed for two years, my husband and I to have no contact with the children, their schools, or their physicians, even though he still (has) joint custody.
We were devastated. We did the right thing. We told the truth. We believed the children when nobody else did. But, we had already spent all our money on legal defense for 2.5 years. And we had no attorney. And the legal system wasn’t concerned with truth, with morality, or with anybody’s best interests, but only with what could be written in the proper format to follow legal proceedings. So we spent months in depression, doing everything to keep ourselves from losing faith, praying 7 times a day, and simply helping one another to survive.
On March 2, 2018, we sold our SUV to pay court costs, late utilities and to keep our only other motorized transportation, and our business assets - our motorcycles - from being repossessed. Though we had to make it through 3 more weeks of winter including 18 degree weather on a 3-hour trip, the SUV was the only hard asset we had without a lien greater than what it was worth.
The legal attacks continued. My husband was held in contempt of court because social media postings and articles I had written from before the order of protection were said to be in violation of the order. I was required to remove every likeness and mention of my step-children from the internet, every loving, tender moment I had photographed, because of somebody else’s malice, while she simultaneously printed libel about our family and posted photos of the children from the day they were born on Facebook. Even so, we didn’t counter-attack. Instead, I placated the twins’ mother and the court system, and removed everything so it no longer looked as if the children were a part of our life, obeying my censorship, though the journalist inside me bubbled with fury.
Then, though we proved we had no money, that we were eating because of the food pantry alone, that our utilities were all threatening disconnection, that our home was in foreclosure, my husband was attacked for not paying child support in the amount of $2,684.42, though her attorney’s fees to recover this money were in the amount of $3,500. On June 25, 2018, I sat in the courtroom praying a rosary when my husband was remanded to Cook County jail for a quasi-criminal offense. And he would remain there until he paid $2,684.42.
I furiously made phone calls from outside the courthouse until my father agreed to use the rest of his savings to get my husband out of jail. But because of the court system’s rules about payment and the disgusting amount of paperwork necessary to process him, he wouldn’t be released until the following evening. He would spend 33 hours in prison with no fresh water, in unspeakable conditions because of wickedness.
When we were finally reunited, the most unexpected thing happened. While we were apart, our faith had grown. We had grown. We were stronger, more committed to one another, more committed to seeking God’s Will for us and doing the right thing, more committed to setting an example of love, of peace, and of truth for our children and for the world.
All in all, we spent over 750 total hours dealing with the legal system in 2018. Had we paid our overpriced Chicago attorney for those hours, it would have amounted to over $382,000. But society couldn’t understand why we didn’t have jobs (though we had applied), how we had survived on only $1,500 of income in over 9 months, and how we continued to live our purpose instead of caving to the pressures of the paper threats piled on my desk.
But, we kept praying. And we kept doing what we felt was right in our hearts. And somehow, we survived. Somehow, nothing more was taken from us. Somehow, the inspiration began to flow. And though we still had not a dollar to our name, we found more joy, more peace and more love than we had ever known possible. We found help from the Society of St. Vincent de Paul, from Our Lady of the Lakes Parish, from Grant Township, and from the state of Illinois, and we started to get back on our feet. People heard our cries. They felt our truth. They saw us. The tide began to turn.
On October 1, 2018, I got the mail and received the first unexpected surprise - a contributory publishing contract for my first novel, Life with Luna, a manuscript I had completed 6 months prior, after 7 years of work.
Then, after 7 months and 7 days of transportation on a motorcycle through all weather conditions, a woman whose last name is still unknown to me would change our life, confirm our faith, and inspire this article.
Without a computer or internet for the last year, the only way we could work for our business (and complete my manuscript) was at the Fox Lake District Library. Over time, we got to know the librarians. One in particular, Ashe, would become a friend. Last Sunday, we invited her to our home, told her our story and encouraged her faith. Though we had been through the ringer, our devotion to God, to the Catholic Church (and its improvements), to prayer, and to each other continued to grow and guide our life. It was our faith that got us through the darkest of days and to this time of peace. We told her that we would help her if she wanted to go back to church, and we ended the conversation with a deeper connection all around.
Then last night, she stopped by with a “token of appreciation.” She told us the story about a man, her friend, Ian Wilson and his kindness ... How he had helped her when she was down, how he had given her a car when she didn’t have one, and how he had since been killed, leaving two sons without a father. And then she handed us the keys to the car he had gifted her, and told us she was giving it to us. Having come upon another vehicle, she no longer needed it and decided to pay it forward.
We were floored. The tears began to flow. The gratitude overwhelmed me. The confirmation of our faith and seeing our prayers answered was unreal. Words cannot explain the emotion I felt. Through all we’d endured, it seemed as though there was no way my faith could continue growing. And then, like The Grinch, my heart expanded even more.
It was not lost on me that two children would never again see their father, and that our children have not seen their father in 10 months, and they may never see him again. It was not lost on me that although these boys would suffer this loss, they were given a legacy of love, of kindness, of doing unto others, and that without ever seeing their father again, he would still impact their lives and the world around them. It was not lost on me that we could do the same.
And so here I am, unburdening my soul, following the inspiration I received through the selfless giving of Ian and Ashe. Seeing the goodness, the kindness and the love they embodied released a deeper sense of peace within me, a peace that begged for the truth to be told, for the fear to be relinquished, and for my soul to know that I’ve done everything in my power to help those around me to understand that we are not alone, that God does exist, and that prayers are answered.
I don’t know what our future holds. I don’t know from where the next dollar will come. But I do know that I will follow Mother Teresa’s guidance and “peace for peace,” because it is impossible to fight for peace. And I will not respond to threats, legal or otherwise, as attention to negative behaviors only breeds further negativity. I will again commit myself to stand for love, for truth, and for doing what’s right against all odds, and I will encourage others to do the same. And I know that if telling our story keeps even one person from falling over the edge to the other side, it was all worth it.
After spending years healing her spirit from a lifetime of abuse, author, Heather D’Anca shares stories of the past and present experiences that led to overall improvement in her physical, mental, emotional, and most importantly, spiritual health. Though she’s taken leaps of faith along the way, it’s the everyday stumble steps that keep her grounded and moving in the right direction. Walk with her on here, on Instagram, Facebook and LinkedIn, and if you feel so inclined, please share your journey to help create an engaged community of support and love for others immersed in life’s struggles.