God started this ministry while my heart was still feeling the effects from the storm in my life. I felt overwhelmed, weak, and sensitive. I questioned why God had allowed uncertainty and hardship to burden my life. I kept telling myself that God was going to use my hurt and pain in some way. I was frustrated, hopeless, defeated, and so confused. I was tired of trying to figure out life. I WAS EXHAUSTED! I needed God to show up in a huge way. I realized I had to surrender my weakness and brokenness to my God; I could not do it on my own any more. Things in my life that I found security in; my faith, my husband, my children, my friends, my financial security, my experience with my husband being in the NFL, my "perfect" love story, all of it could not totally fill me up the way I needed during this challenging time in my life. I was in great NEED and DESPERATION for MY SAVIOR!
One day our friend texted me that he was praying Romans 5 over our family. I see now, after the storm, that the suffering I experienced brought perseverance, character, and hope! I can honestly now live and breathe God’s Hope because of the storm! It seems so backwards! This verse was a huge part in my story and in the core of the ministry that God was going to have me start, A Victor's Voice.
My husband is my high school sweetheart, my best friend, and the amazing father to our three beautiful children Sheila,8, Sera, 6 and Elijah, 3. I am so grateful that I choose this guy, or should I say that God choose this guy for me. I got to experience first-hand my husband play football in high school (Buena High, Ventura, Ca), in college at San Diego State, and in the NFL. We were blessed to enjoy 4 seasons with the Indianapolis Colts and 1 season with the Jacksonville Jaguars. We celebrated one Super Bowl win, and unfortunately had one Super Bowl loss. As a fan, you see the glamour and the game day hype. But as a wife of a NFL football player, you see and live the life behind the scenes. The stress, anxiety, the physical destruction it has had on our husbands bodies and brains, the way they would hobble out of bed the morning after the game. The countless hours of studying the play books, the times when they wanted to give up, the defeat on their faces when they were cut from a team. As a wife we went through all that too. The NFL was a huge part of my life too.
When we would discuss what our life would be like after football, we felt hopeful. We got excited, "retirement" seemed so far away when we were living the NFL life. It was my husband’s first preseason game with the Jags, his 5th season in the NFL, and it was his last game of football he would ever play.
I never thought how or when his career would end but when it did I was shocked. I can still hear those words when he called me after that game, "I am done with football."
Life after football has been a roller coaster. It was awesome in the beginning of my husband’s retirement because we could both be “stay at home parents”. It felt weird and silly to say my husband was "retired" at age 28. We were fortunate enough that financially there was no stress to rush into finding a new career right away. We had a lot of fun together. We went on lots of adventures with our kids and now so grateful for that time. The hard times in the beginning had to do with his symptoms from his head trauma. He struggled with moodiness, being quick to anger, agitation, and having daily headaches. He was feeling the devastating lifelong effects of Post Concussion Syndrome.
As a wife, I tried to always be supportive of my husband’s heart and where God was leading him. But after almost 6 years of several career changes, three moves in three years to three different cities, on top of raising our three young children, I was at the end of my rope.
I laughed because I thought we had been through enough over the past 6 years, but what I didn't know was that God was still working. In the moment, I remember feeling frustrated and thinking, "I am done, I am exhausted, I don't know if I can keep it together if anything else happens!" Throughout that year, my husband was depressed off and on and experienced a lot of dark days. He felt defeated by not having a purpose as a man, as a provider for his family. I was frustrated as his wife that there was nothing that I could do to help him.
The day our lives changed, our best friends had just come into town and we were going to spend the next couple of days with them. That night my husband, my best friend, the father of our children hit his lowest point in his life. He lost it in front of my 2 year old son while the girls and I got ready for bed. He gave into his rage that he worked so hard at concealing, his feelings of frustration and defeat that had been buried deep within him came bursting to the surface. All it took was one frame falling off the wall as he changed our sons diaper for my husband to release his rage on life.
He never once touched me or my children in anger! But, we did see a handful of times him take his anger out on objects. It was heartbreaking to have to comfort my children when they saw their loving daddy act like a monster. It was not him!
That night he drove himself to a mental facility. He broke into a million pieces that night, the same way he broke those glass frames with his fists. His painful anger was raging through him and it was all about his concussions, his childhood, being bullied as a kid for the color of his skin, being lied to and betrayed by our financial planner, things not working out as planned with all his jobs, his thoughts of being a failure, he had a breakdown from his hurt and pain.
We prayed together and I had to release my husband to God as he drove away. I had to trust our heavenly Father to protect my best friend. That night my security was lost in an instant. Was I ever going to get my husband back? My kids were great that night as we all slept together, holding them so tightly as they slept. They were clueless. They thought daddy was going to go get surgery. They had compassion for him. But my mind was spinning. I was sick with fear and worry, was my husband and my best buddy gone forever? Was I going to have to get a job? What would I even do? Why Lord!!! I was angry with God. When I saw him broken that night I realized that there was no way "I" could mend him back together. We were humbled in a major way!
Through all the ups and downs, God was and is still holding us close in His arms. Gripping so tightly to His promises I was consistently reminded that through the struggle, God was in control of it all! Through the job transitions, through the betrayal of our financial planner, through the emotional mess and hopeless thoughts, God stuck by my side. God was with my husband and he was with our children always. We were encouraged and loved on by our family and best friends. The close connections of community brought us comfort. Despite our mess God still was victorious and was molding us in His image with His perspective.
So here it is.... A small glimpse into my struggle and how God has rescued me and my family. Most of all how Jesus has displayed His PERFECT love story and intertwines it into our lives, not just in our struggle but in our success as well. I am only able to be vulnerable because of my husband's brave fight that the more we talk about the struggle, the more God's grace can redeem lives. I am open about our hardships, our hurts and pains, I hope I can tell others about How God rescued me and gave me Hope.
I started a Victor's Voice by just reaching out and calling my friends that I knew. I called two friends a week until I called about 40 girls. I asked questions to them, "How are you guys really doing?" God gave me a couple names each week to call and I was amazed at the responses, a lot of my friends were brought to tears as they told me how hard transition has really been. God confirmed my purpose to love and serve this community of women who are struggling with transition after football. I want to be there to listen, bring community around them, allow them to feel comforted in knowing that they do not have to suffer in silence and alone. I now have empathy for women who are suffering because I have suffered.
God faithfully continues to give us just enough light to take one step at a time. I know He wants me to share our struggles so that others can connect with our experience and be comforted and receive our Savior's Victory. God has given my husband and I so many opportunities to tell others about the Hope we have in Jesus. We are now just the supporting actors and God is the main character in our story called life! I believe the suffering that I have experienced lead me to His ministry. My name is Traci Keiaho and I AM A VICTOR'S VOICE!!!!!! AMEN.
*Keep in mind that the women sharing their stories give us permission, as well as their husbands, to share on line.