I get that look when I share my story…you know the look, “This can’t be for real. NO WAY!” I’m not sure if any of you have ever encountered that response when you share what God has done in your life, but it happens to me quite often. The most important message I can deliver when telling you my story is this:
I was not wanted. I was not planned. I am a girl of circumstance. I am a product of choices…several. There was not a billowing praise lifted up to the heavens when my conception was announced…there was a deep, gruntled exhale of disappointment and despair from my parents. Neither of them had any “time” under their belt except my father…his “time” was spent in a state penitentiary. My mother met him there while she was visiting her father who was incarcerated for armed robbery. My father was 18 years old and serving a sentence for assault and battery on an elderly man.
Once my grandfather was released, my father followed and came to find work. My conception came soon after. I want you to check out this video. This is my grandfather telling the story of how he was delivered from alcohol and how he saved me from the “choice”:
Looking back at pictures, I look like I was a typical, happy-go-lucky kid. My face doesn’t appear to reveal any signs of the trauma I witnessed.
My parents’ relationship was tumultuous. My father was a violent alcoholic. He beat my mother all the time. She would leave and come back, leave and come back. The number one reason domestic violence survivors stay or return to the abusive relationship is because the abuser controls their money supply, leaving them with no financial resources to break free. My mother was no different. She had 4 kids by the time she was 24 years old and though she worked, putting 3 kids in daycare and keeping one in school was expensive.
In 1981, my mother left my father. We stayed in a shelter on South Hull Street in Montgomery, Alabama. Soon after, she got a duplex right up the street. It wasn’t long before she began talking with my dad again and they were cozy. This would be the end. On August 24, 1981 my father beat my mother for the last time.
We buried her a few days later. I was not in attendance. I was 8 years old and an orphan. I had a younger brother and two younger sisters who needed me. My father plead guilty in his trial and was sentenced to 50 years in prison.
We set out on a journey that was treacherous. We were placed in a foster home of distant relatives whom we had never met. It’s unclear to me why this happened but I’ve been told that our immediate family members were just not able to take care of us. This family stepped up and agreed to keep us together. They had 7 children between them so the 4 of us were welcomed in.
About two weeks after we arrived, I got an awakening that I had never anticipated. My younger sister was 5 months old and I was charged with her care. I was watching her in the den and she rolled off the cushion and bounced off of the hardwood floor. Imagine the sound…
My foster father “Buddy” came in and snatched me up by my feet and whipped me while I was hanging upside down. Then, as if he was bored, he just dropped me onto the floor. I was mortified and went outside to gather myself and sit on the steps. He came to speak to me. I thought he would hug me and tell me it would be okay. NOPE. He said this, “If you don’t want to go back to eating ketchup sandwiches and cheerios, you better watch yourself. Them kids are YOUR responsibility. Got that?”
For the next 10 years, my life and my brother’s life became a game of survival. We were subjected to physical, sexual, and emotional abuse. That happy face that I see in the pictures of my childhood became a synthetic shroud of secrecy. I smiled only to make it appear as though nothing was wrong. I became the protector…like an eagle over her eggs. I would do anything to keep them from hurting my siblings.
I can’t explain the anxiety that dwelt within me. I lived in constant fear. And I hated it! I didn’t WANT to be afraid, but I didn’t know any other way. I had no HOPE. The way that man would beat my brother just killed me! I could not stand the thought of being without my brother but I was so afraid and so small and so helpless. Many times, I simply succumbed to his requests for evil and played a part. I became the sacrifice so that my sisters would not have to be exposed to this evil. I started drinking at the age of 11. I learned quickly that this would “numb me out” and it became my coping mechanism.
When I graduated high school, I had my choice of scholarships. Honestly, I didn’t care. My only focus was getting out of this den of evil and finding work so I could help my siblings. As soon as I graduated, I ran away from my foster home and turned “Buddy” in for the crimes he had committed against us. He went to prison. I began my journey into independence. I got a trust fund from my mother’s death and I blew it in one year on alcohol, partying, and drugs. I had begun going onto post and hanging out at the Enlisted Club, “The Hidden Door”, with my cousins Brandy and Sharon. I started going out with a soldier…
I made one of the best decisions ever. I decided to join the US Army in March 1993. He was in C Co/3rd Battalion/75th Ranger Regiment at Ft. Benning, Georgia. I was exposed to the Army way and l liked it. I knew that I could get an education and make money at the same time, so I made the decision and went to see a recruiter. They signed me up and I chose my MOS ~ Medical Laboratory Specialist.
Mike and I got married before I joined the Army. The main reason was not ‘love’ but joint domicile: so that I would be stationed where he was. I liked Mike. I had no understanding of how to love someone or be in a functional relationship. I was a horrible wife. One year into our marriage, I became pregnant. Mike was ecstatic but I was devastated. I was afraid. I believed what my foster parents had drilled into me: that I would never be a good mother and that my choices would take me down the very same road she traveled. These words were so powerful and created my spirit. Being pregnant was not what I wanted, but Mike really wanted this baby.
My son was born 9 weeks early. He stayed in the NICU for 3 weeks after his birth and I stayed in the bars. I was able to stay clean throughout my pregnancy, but once the freedom was available I grasped hold and took off. I was as selfish as they come.
I would leave my son with my little brother while I went out. My husband was in the field and often times would be gone for weeks at a time. I took advantage and began sleeping around and partying. It wasn’t long before my husband had enough. We divorced in May 1996. I was referred to the Army’s alcohol and drug program. I began seeing a counselor and was diagnosed with several “labels”. Things like ‘borderline personality disorder’ and ‘PTSD’ and several others were attached to my chart. The counselor “highly encouraged” me to go to inpatient treatment so I obliged.
During this treatment, I was forced to look at myself with a clear mind. I didn’t like what I saw. You would think that this would encourage me to be better and strive to make more of myself, but instead it only highlighted the error of my ways and magnified the fact that I had failed to meet expectations.
I met Roger while I was in treatment. We became friends and shared our hopes and hurts. I found out that we were both stationed at Fort Benning. We met up once we both got back and began seeing each other. I wasn’t ready to go back to work…I wanted some time off, but the Army didn’t give it to me. So I took it. We left without permission…better known as AWOL. We took a dramatic road trip across the country to Las Vegas. I became pregnant and soon decided [after 4 months of living in my car & on the run] that it was time to turn around and go back. I received a general discharge, thankfully, because my service up until this point had been “of good conduct”. He was sent to military prison for some crimes he had committed previously.
We reconciled once he was released and did the best we knew how to make it work. I was a train wreck full of rage and anger. Our household was dysfunctional for years. I mean YEARS! We struggled with addictions and past hurts. I got sober in April 2004 when Roger had left to live in Texas. Even though I got “clean” I still felt dissatisfied, irritable, and discontent. There was a void and an unrest in me that presented itself as misguided anger and anxiety. Roger returned in 2005, we married 2 months later and life was “peachy” for a season. Circumstances were ‘under control’ and our life was running fine, as everything was going just as WE planned. We welcomed a new daughter in October 2006.
We moved to Texas in March 2009 knowing that something had to change. I knew that MY attitude was not right. I knew that I was wrong and I was not capable of changing my husband. Honestly, I didn’t believe that what he was doing was any way directed at me. I knew he was miserable and I didn’t want him to feel like that. I wanted to help him and I tried everything…EVERYTHING. I began going to Powerhouse Church after his cousin kept asking me and asking me and I kept saying NO, but don’t stop asking! One day, I said yes.
The teaching was on order…order in the home. I recognized immediately that my home was not in order. I began to repent to God for sins that I didn’t even know were sins! I cried and travailed over these sins because I recognized that I needed a Savior. I had truly done everything I KNEW to do, right AND wrong, and my life was still a mess. I gave my heart to Jesus Christ. I gave Him every piece of my broken heart and He gave it back to me softened and permeable, ready to receive what He poured out for me at the Cross: GRACE.
The Bible tells us that it is the Truth that sets us free. But, if no one tells us that Truth then we remain in bondage. We cannot change people, only God can do that. What we can change is our response to God and to people. There is freedom that comes when we surrender our lives completely to Jesus Christ, giving Him full authority over every aspect of our being. We are completely in the will of God and obedient to His Word, and that brings security. With that Promise, there is no guarantee that pain, trials, tribulation, temptation, persecution, and troubles will not come. But strength is built by resistance. When we keep our eyes on the things of heaven and not earth, the eternal and not the temporal, the matters of life that we once found to be devastating are now sandpaper that refines us.
His Word tells us that if we seek Him with all of our heart, He will come down to us. Psalm 116, Psalm 81, and Psalm 119 are good prayers. I also like Psalm 40 (my personal favorite because He pulled me out of a pit of despair! I was sinking fast.).
Through reverence, there can be restoration. When a home is restored, the first thing that has to happen is the walls are torn down and many times a new foundation has to be laid. The same must happen to us. Walls must come down, and a new foundation must be laid. Many of us have a cracked foundation. We’ve been taught the wrong way and led in the wrong direction. It’s okay to turn around and start over! We don’t have to do today what didn’t work yesterday. It’s okay to say “I don’t know!” or “I’m wrong!”. Here is my husband testifying after his deliverance from gambling, alcohol and drugs in July 2014 (that’s right…it took a little longer for him.)
Today, I work for a pro-life ministry with one of the leading pro-life leaders in the world. eople are restored everyday. I lead some outreaches through a ministry at our church as well hitting the sidewalk in front of the largest abortuary in the US to pray for families to choose life.
Paul wrote much of the New Testament and was on fire for the things of God. He was a persecutor of Christians until he had an encounter with the Living God! He talks of what he calls a ‘thorn in his flesh’, a messenger from Satan that kept him from becoming proud. Here is what he says in 2 Corinthians 12:8-10:
Three different times I begged the Lord to take it away. Each time he said, “My grace is all you need. My Power works best in weakness.” So now I am glad to boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ can work through me. That’s why I take pleasure in my weaknesses, and in the insults, hardships, persecutions, and troubles that I suffer for Christ. For when I am weak, then I am strong.”