BOISE, Idaho (Christian Examiner) --Naghemeh Abedini never wanted to speak in front of a crowd.
A fear of traveling and speaking characterized her life before her husband Pastor Saeed Abedini was wrongfully imprisoned in Iran for his work with the house church movement in the Muslim nation 13 years prior.
Now she is an outspoken advocate against Iran in front of international audiences that span from political leaders to average citizens.
It was not always this way, she told Christian Examiner in a recent interview about her husband's 35th birthday which he celebrated behind bars May 7. "I was not the person you see on TV. The Lord has brought me a long way."
After Saeed was imprisoned in September 2012, Naghmeh fasted, prayed and cried to God for three months.
"Slowly the Lord just strengthened me," she said recalling the season of "grace" after Saeed was taken from house arrest and placed in prison.
"I think the Lord was just giving me time to weep and to go to Him. Those three months were very crucial. I was in prayer and in fasting, and I just look at it now and I feel like that's when the Lord said I want you to get up and I'm going to use this for the Gospel."
In faith she approached the media and began to publicly share her story.
"I couldn't understand how God was going to use this for the Gospel and only after I stepped out in obedience and appeared in the media did I see how the Lord had opened the door to speak before nations and governments about Jesus through this ordeal."
The fears and anxieties have not disappeared, she confessed. The difference is God at work.
"It's such a weakness for me -- to travel and speak -- that I see the hand of God in it," she said noting the peace that "washes over" her each time she makes a public appearance.
"Maybe if I was a great speaker I would rely on my own strength. It's such a weakness in my life that every single time I speak I'm trembling. I feel like that's where Jesus is giving the strength. He is our strength in weakness and the beauty of God comes into these areas."
In a few weeks she will speak before German parliament. "I'm really scared about that," she said. "I've been invited by human rights groups in Germany that are not even Christian."
It is another example of God using Saeed's persecution to spread the Gospel.
Yet, just as he has suffered persecution for not renouncing his faith in Christ, her obedience to expose his abuse and torture has come at a price.
Naghmeh is now considered an enemy of Iran. Government officials have said any attempt to visit the country would result in her immediate imprisonment.
"They consider me an enemy because I've been speaking out on their human rights issues. Iran isn't really a free speech country so now that I've been outspoken, they consider me an enemy and would arrest me," she said. "I have charges myself (for speaking) in front of the United Nations in Geneva against them, to human rights groups, European parliaments."
But her role as an advocate for human rights and her husband's freedom are only one part the mother of two must play.
Like many moms of school-aged kids, she must balance schedules, activities and everyday life at home. And even after three years of Saeed's absence, the realization that she manages it all alone is real every day.
"I wake up with the realization that Saeed is gone because he's just not there," she says noting her next thought is sometimes "Oh, I'm a single mom."
The strength to face it comes from devotional time.
"A lot of times I wake up much earlier to pray and read the Bible for hours before I can even have the strength to get up and be a mom."
Afternoons pass quickly with homework and dinner preparations. Evening comes and goes and bedtimes prove to be difficult.
"I did a lot of the normal day and morning routines when Saeed was around. (He) would put them into bed and worship with them and read the Bible with them. Sometimes I joined them, but a lot of times it would be Saeed and the kids, so that's the time they miss him most. That's the hardest time for them and also that's the hardest time for me."
Over the years, Naghmeh says she's had to learn to make those difficult situations teachable moments for eight-year-old Rebekka and seven-year-old Jacob.
"At the beginning it was hard for me to see their pain. I didn't know what to do with it and I would just go in my room and cry and just cry out to God. But recently the Lord has really given me wisdom."
Fear and longing for Saeed are a way to teach them to seek God in pain, she said explaining her comparison of the calm they experience in her presence to the greater calm found in Christ.
"I use it as an opportunity to say (to my kids) my heart for you is that you would know Christ so intimately that you could go to Him and feel His arms and be soothed by Him. There's things that I might not be able to soothe you with, but Jesus can."
Through this process their faith and prayers have become "real" and "raw" she noted.
"I'll say what's making you afraid or what's making you so sad about daddy and so they'll tell me and we'll just immediately tell it to Jesus. It's making sense to them."
TEACHABLE (& REFLECTIVE) MOMENTS
Many times these lessons are extensions of what God is teaching her in her own life.
"I have to admit I struggle with a lot of anger and bitterness both towards our government and toward the Iranian government and the persecutors...who are beating my husband."
With each struggle and frustration it has been the book of I Timothy that has led her to let go of her own ideas of what should be happening with Saeed or the future of her family.
"I have a struggle but I submit that to God. I get on my knees and pray for the persecutors, for the enemies that are hurting Saeed and even Christians all over the world.
Quoting the Scriptures she inserts herself into the reference at the end.
"The Bible says I urge you first of all to pray for all people.Pray this way for kings and all those in authority--meaning ask God to help them," she explained and continued. "Intercede on their behalf and give thanks for them.
"It's been hard for me to do that for our leadership to be able to ask God to help, to intercede for them and to give thanks for them, but I submit myself unto the Lord," she said. "....So we can live peacefully and have quiet lives marked by godliness and dignity.
"This is good and pleases God our Savior," she concludes, saying it is a cleansing process that helps her through the anger.
Hopes for a quiet life marked by godliness with Saeed at her side helps, too.