I decided to reinvent myself by moving to a Caribbean island at age 29. I managed a gift shop and also was an ocean kayak tour guide. There were a few local guides and one specifically caught my eye. We began spending time together, and eventually he moved in with me.
I got a German Shepherd puppy named Balou and rented a house along the beach with a huge fenced-in yard. It seemed like the perfect life even though I missed civilization. I missed having running water at night instead of dishes being in the sink full of ants. I missed having air conditioning instead of having an oscillating fan to ward off the mosquitoes. I missed having hot water instead of freezing cold showers. And I really missed being able to flush toilet paper down a toilet instead of using a trash can in the bathroom to throw it away.
Despite all this, I was settling in to island life. I spent my time going to work and not going out very much. My boyfriend and I had been living in this house for about six months when he stopped staying overnight. I didn’t think much of it at first because his family lived nearby. When he came back a few days later, I asked him where he had been staying. He never would give me a straight answer. He didn’t like that I questioned him, and arguing became a regular occurrence. One night he grabbed me by both arms and threw me into the refrigerator.
I knew I would not have allowed this situation if I lived in the States. I wasn’t sure why I had allowed it now. I needed someone who wouldn’t hurt me, physically or emotionally; someone who also stimulated me intellectually and even wanted to share in responsibilities. I’d always had to do for myself because I never felt there was anyone I could call upon for support.
I finally asked for his keys back. With them in hand, my boyfriend walked down the beach to a pier, threatening to throw the keys in the sea. We were screaming so loud, the guy who lived nearby tried to intervene but got punched in the face. I apologized to my friend and ran home. My boyfriend showed up and I told him to get out of my life. I screamed for help from my next door neighbor, but he didn’t want to get involved. My only option was to call the police. But, they would only keep him for the night and then he would come looking for me.
Several weeks later, I went out to the local dance club with a few friends. Upon seeing me, my boyfriend wanted me to go immediately home. I definitely wasn’t going to allow him to tell me what to do, so I danced for a few more hours. He finally marched inside the club, threw me over his shoulders and carried me down the dirt road towards our house. I was kicking and screaming. Several people stopped to watch, but they didn’t want to get caught up in our fight and definitely didn’t want to be on the “bad side” of a local. He walked out on one of the nearby piers and threw me to the ground on top of some coconut tree roots. He jumped down from the pier and began kicking me in my face and stomach.
I filed charges with the “Public Minister” the next day, on our one-year anniversary. I also went to the hospital to record my injuries and get x-rays of my mouth. Fortunately, I had not lost any teeth, and only my gum was black and blue, along with my stomach. It took a few days for me to recover, along with my pride.
I wasn’t sure how to get out of this abusive relationship. My boyfriend had come by my house the next week to apologize. He said he couldn’t live without me. And that he’d never leave me. And he meant that he was never leaving me. He said that if I moved to the other end of the island, he would come find me. I knew I was going back to the United States in a wood box if I didn’t do anything.
I needed a plan. How was I going to get my 90 lb., 9-month old German Shepherd puppy off this island? I was not going to leave Balou. There had been times during our fighting when I came home from work and I’d find Balou down the beach with my boyfriend. He began threatening me that if I tried to come after him when he had Balou, he would break each of his legs, one by one. Knowing how spiteful he was, we both had to get off the island.
While in town someone overheard me talking about finding a dog crate. A certain couple lived on the island during the summer and had just flown down with their dog. They were willing to let me borrow their kennel. I now had a way for Balou to leave. But, how was I going to buy our plane tickets? My boss knew my situation was getting worse with my boyfriend. She gave me two weeks pay so I would buy a plane ticket for both me and my dog to leave.
I had grown incredibly far from God the last several years and despite how lost I was, I was reminded of His faithfulness. He continued to remind me He was near. The day before we left, I met a group of students on a mission trip to Honduras that had come over to the island. I had not prayed the entire time I lived on the island, but that evening, I got on my knees in the sand, watched my last sunset and prayed to my God.
These students knew just the right words I had been longing to hear: Proverbs 3:5 “Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding.” I couldn’t comprehend why this situation had progressed this far, but I trusted God to get me home. And my prayer was answered. Both my dog and I flew back to the States the next day and began our life over, once again.
I flew into Louisiana to reunite with my family just four days before my 30th birthday. Even though I didn’t know how I was going to support myself or where I was going to live, I knew my life was in God’s hands. I didn’t have many answers, but I trusted in His plans for me. All I could do was rely on Him and focus on Him again.