Ladies and gentlemen, please put your hands together for the one and only Tonni Lea. Oh, thank you. I want to open up with a story that I heard. This mom decided that she needed to get her son, John, up in the morning. So, she said, “John, you need to get up.” He replied, “Mom, I just really don’t feel like it today.” She insisted, “But John, you really need to get up.” She left and later came back, urging, “Johnny, you need to get up.” He responded, “Mom, I really don’t want to get up today. I just want to lay here and rest.” When he asked why he needed to get up, she reminded him, “Johnny, don’t you remember? You’re the pastor of the church.”
There have been many times that I have forgotten who I am, and that was because of all the different things that happened in my life. All of the different traumas, all the different issues that I dealt with—from ex-husbands to family. It’s very difficult sometimes when your own family turns against you. But you know what I found? God blessed me with an amazing family, and that’s all of you. I now have thousands of dear brothers and sisters, even in other countries.
My message is about being redeemed. That’s part of it—being redeemed after you go through all of the issues and come out fighting. You become a warrior woman. We know about that because Anita and I did a book, “Warrior Women,” with Ken, who is the publisher. Amazing stories and that’s just who I am. Why am I that? Well, at age five, my body was introduced to… it wasn’t sacred anymore. Then, as a teenager, the same thing happened within my family. And then it also led me to pick out the wrong husbands. Both of them were sex addicts.
I wish Trent was here because he was the one that wanted me to talk about this. The funny story about that is when I found out for the fifth time that my ex-husband was cheating on me. I got a message on my phone that was meant for someone else. I knew it was not meant for me. So, I called him up and told him, “You get your ass home and get your stinking stuff out now. I’m done. I’m over it.” He kept saying, “Oh no, it’s over. I’ll behave.” He didn’t. Little did I know that his son thought I still had a gun in the house, so he called the cops. The ex-husband came home, came into the kitchen, and kept pushing me up against the counter just because he kept getting in my face. I turned off and went outside into our attached garage, and he followed me out there. I looked at him and asked, “Why can’t you stop? Why can’t you stop hurting me? Why can’t you stop hurting our granddaughter?” Because I raised my oldest granddaughter. He said, “I can’t.” I said, “You’re a liar. You can.”
Well, the police show up, and guess who admits what she did to the police? I did. I tell the truth. I’ve never been in trouble before. I didn’t know you were not supposed to tell them everything you did. They come on and ask, “Do you want to tell us what happened?” I said, “Yeah, I’ll tell you what happened. I slapped him.” They were like, “You just slapped him?” I said, “Well, I’ll tell you why I slapped him. Again, for the fifth time, I got a message that was not meant for me. It was meant for someone else he’s sleeping with. I’m done. I want him out of my house.”
Well, I admitted everything. I went to jail. I sat in the holding block for 5 hours, sobbing and crying. There was a gentleman in the next block, and when they finally took me out to book me, he was going like this because he had heard me crying. I was in this place, sitting on this concrete bench. It was the most horrible place I had ever been. One of our sponsors, one of our bigger sponsors, Kurt Zerby Realty, who I worked with and where I learned to become a realtor many years ago, ended up coming to see me because he still had his ministerial alliance. He walks in, and I go in there, you know, with the glass thing. He said, “Tonie, your husband told me everything that went on.” I said, “Yeah, but you know what, Kurt? God’s going to use me while I’m in here.” And you know what we did? I got in the pod. There was a girl there with whom we had a mutual friend who was having trouble filling out a paper. She asked, “Would you help me?” I said, “Sure, I’ll help you.” And we just connected. I went back to see her twice after I got out. She now goes to my mom and dad’s church and helps with the women’s ministry.
So, if I was only in there to plant that seed, it was worth it. That’s the thing: scars are worth it. One scar that still is very hard for me, bless Sally, she’s such a big help. But it took all of this going through with the ex-husband—whom I divorced first, dated, and remarried, just to find out the affair was still going on. Then, I found the 12-step recovery from Dr. Weiss. He takes the 12 steps and uses them for sex addicts, intimacy, anorexic narcissists—that’s exactly what I was married to. So, through the 12 steps, you have to start digging. Why did you choose this? Why is this bothering you? What is this pain all for?
Well, the day after Mother’s Day, 1990, I had an abortion. I knew it was a little girl. I have her ultrasound hanging up in my office, but I had to get rid of that. It was hidden, and it was killing me—physically and mentally. But it took going through all those other things to finally come out. My family didn’t even know. He was so embarrassed and so worried about his reputation in town because he was a big business leader. So, I gave in, and I did it. I’m the one who lived with it. And I tell you what, being redeemed from something like that—it’s called a vision. A vision of God and Jesus, or Jesus and Melissa Lee, running through this most beautiful green field. It’s got these green hedges and these butterflies, and they’re chasing them and running hand in hand. I know where she is. I know who’s taking care of her. And I can’t wait to get home to meet her because I know she’s going to be at the gate waiting for me.
So I can meet her. There was a picture that God gave me in my mind, and I don’t know if it was a couple of days later, a week later, or something like that. Just scrolling through Facebook, this picture comes up, and I’m like, “Oh my gosh, there she is. She’s at the ocean.” The ocean is huge for me. That’s how God speaks to me, and the water, the living water, rushes over me. It rushes through my life. And there she is. Now, who put that picture on Facebook? So, I took it, and someone made a picture. So now, her picture hangs in my office with all of my grandchildren. These are my two grandsons. It’s just amazing. They know about it now. They know that they have an aunt in heaven.
Redeemed says that He will restore what the locust ate, what the enemy has stolen. He doesn’t just restore; He redeems. I’m living in my redemption. This is my redemption because I can take the message out and I can share it. I can do things like this. I can connect with all of these people. And you know, I don’t necessarily look for the speakers. They will come across, and I’m like, “Oh my gosh, yes, that one. Yes, that one.” The Lord brings them. It’s just like our guests. God brought them. My twin and I sat, and we met on Facebook. We went and met for dinner up here, and we started talking. We’re like, “Oh my gosh, no, you. Yeah, you.” And it was just like, “Oh my gosh, twins.” And it’s amazing how God brings people into your life.
Redemption, it’s there, you know? Why? Because He loves you so very, very much. You can’t explain it. You can’t fathom it. Here, there, I mean, there’s no end to it, right? To know the height, depth, width, and length of His love is my heart’s desire—redemption, redeemed. I’m not only restored but I am being redeemed. I am Tonie Lee, and I am a warrior woman.