One of my earliest memories is of sitting at my dining room table with both of my parents. I stood up in my chair, leaned over the table and rested my chin in my hands. My imaginative eyes grew wider and with a sigh, I asked my parents when they were going to get a divorce. They awkwardly looked at one another and then rushed to assure me that it would never happen.
I was four years old.
My life started out relatively normal. I was the third girl born to my parents within a six year time frame. As overwhelming as that sounds, they seemed to be doing okay when the unexpected drug overdose of my mom’s brother sent my mom into a dark hole-one she wouldn’t be able to climb out of for avery long time.
Before I knew it, my mom was sitting us down to tell us that they were indeed getting a divorce.
I was five years old.
A few years after the divorce, we made our second move to a smaller town in Mississippi, just outside of Memphis, TN. My grandmother moved in with us which was nice since my mom was gone most of the time, working as a nurse on the 11-7 shift.
My grandmother did the best she could taking care of us but her alcoholism got in the way a lot of the time and there were manyscary moments of physical and verbal abuse.
I was eight years old.
My mom started dating a few different men and unfortunately, they weren’t the best candidates for a fill in father. Her drug use increased at this time and I vividly remember my grandmother periodically having me check when my mom came home whether or not she had been using.
Many of my elementary years were spent crying and worrying about my mom’s safety when she wouldn’t come home for days. I took my aggression out mostly on myself. I remember feeling like no one would ever understand me and in moments of frustration, I would furiously scrape my arms with a butter knife.
I was ten years old.
Once I entered middle school, things began to look up a bit. I worked really hard to make the cheerleading squad and once I accepted a spot on the team, I hoped I had found a place to belong. Cheering was a great outlet for me and I loved competitions.
I vividly remember the summer before my freshman year. My mom’s boyfriend at the time went on a rampage and physically beat my mom. This was a pretty typical occurrence but this time it was especially bad. In order to stay safe, my sisters had to bring me to a friend’s house for the weekend. They later brought me cupcakes because it was my birthday.
I was 13 years old.
After years of trauma, my mom left her abusive boyfriend. I was enjoying this brief moment of peace and was busy making new friends. One night I was invited over to one of their houses. I knew there would be some pretty “wild” boys there and made her promise that she would never leave me alone with them. She broke her promise and I was raped.
I was 14 years old.
After that, my self esteem was at a low. I never told anyone about what happened. At this point, I didn’t even realize how it was affecting me or my behavior. I got some new friends and through them, ending up meeting a new boy. He was totally awe struck with me and relentlessly asked me out until I agreed.
I was 15 years old.
At first, things were really blissful but very quickly, the reality surfaced. I found out that he had cheated on me multiple times. When I threatened to break up with him, he threatened back suicide. I was being manipulated and I found myself in the same cycle as my mom. We broke up off and on and his behavior took on scarier tones. He would stalk me after school and he began using drugs.
I knew it was time to move on and began dating one of his friends. This guy was my knight in shining armor…always there to rescue me from all of the abusive behavior. In my teenage immaturity, it was also a great way to get back at my previous boyfriend. We dated briefly and for a while, I was torn between the two. But, I soon found out I was pregnant.
I was 16 years old.
I had my son during Christmas break and with the help of my mom and grandmother, returned to school immediately. My mom was actually recovering and doing pretty well. I graduated and went to college that summer.
Unfortunately, the untimely death of my grandmother sent
my mom back into a deep, dark hole. She decided on a whim to move and I was left to figure out my future. I decided to move in with my boyfriend but the day before we were to move in together, he physically attacked me in front of my one year old son. My actions weren’t always perfect either but I knew I had to get out of this cycle. I left him.
I was 18 years old.
I got an apartment with a friend and continued with college. My self worth was destroyed. I started experimenting with drugs and at a fast rate. What started off as an occasional thing quickly began to seep over into my daily life. My mom reappeared on the scene and offered to move my friends and I out to North Carolina. I thought this was a good way out.
I met a new boy. It felt so good to have someone like me again. My self esteem was so low that I barely could look anyone in the eye. He seemed like a good guy with a good heart and just like I had in the past, I fell for his game. We dated for a few months and were sexually active. One day, I decided to take a pregnancy test. It was positive.
I was 19 years old.
Up until this point, I had been making choice after choice that was quickly leading me down a destructive path. But, I was about to learn that long ago, God chose me and He was drawing me into a relationship with Himself.
I contacted my sister who was a strong Christian and asked her if I could come visit. She agreed and I made the trip with my son to TN. I broke down with her and we desperately prayed, begging God to intervene in my life.
The very next day, on our way to church, we were hit head on by another car. My arm was crushed in six places. Because of that, I was unable to work which left me unable to care for myself and my son. My sister’s church sent out a plea and just when it looked hopeless, a family stepped up and took us in. I felt like I had finally found what I was longing for.
I was 20 years old.
With the help of my strong mentor and spiritual mother, I began to do bible study and soak up all I could about a relationship with God. During this time, I was so broken but I felt God right there with me, every step of the way. Each day, He revealed another piece of his character to me.
One day, while reading the bible, I felt that God was speaking to me to place my child for adoption. It was the hardest truth I’ve ever had to swallow. Because the decision was so difficult, I memorized over 100 verses on obedience and started the process to choose a family.
Choosing a family was an extremely emotional process, but God was so faithful. There were little details that made me know that the family I chose was the family God had intended for my child long ago before he was even created. As hard and beautiful as it was to accept, I was a vessel to which God would bring them a son. The day came for his arrival. I will never forget the heart wrenching experience when I handed over my beautiful, blue-eyed, baby to his adoptive parents. They named him David.
Going home that day empty handed, was definitely the most painful experience of my life. Distraught, I was crying and sharing with a friend of mine that I needed a promise from God- a promise that one day I would get to experience this again and have a “normal” family.
The phone rang. A girl from church was on the other line. She said “I feel that God told me to call you and read you this verse.” The verse started out with “I the Lord make a vow by my own name….bc you have done this and given me your only son, I promise to give you as many descendants as there are grains of sand of the seashore and stars in the sky.” Chills ran down my spine and I felt a glimpse of hope for my future.
Unfortunately, after the adoption, things weren’t the happy ending I had hoped for. At Christmas time, our house burned down and my dreams of the life I thought I would have fell with the ashes to the ground. I moved into a hotel room temporarily and my mentors were consumed with details.
My faith was shaken and I spent many more years running from God. But I always held on to that promise He gave me.
And God was so faithful to me. Even though I was rejecting Him, he stayed true. During this time, a friendship was developing between myself and one of my sister’s friends. Grace and compassion oozed out of him and he was someone I could always talk to. He was always there when I needed him and we
had a lot in common as far as our heart for missions and our longing for intimacy with Christ.
He would babysit my son while I was in school. I wondered
if God would call us to get married but then insecurity told me I would never have someone so godly and devoted.
Besides that, he was called to ministry and an aspiring pastor. I thought there was no way we could be together. I had a shady past, was super opinionated and didn’t play the piano! No way could I ever be a pastor’s wife!
In my small mind, I couldn’t believe that God would give such a gift to me. ..the girl who was rejected and abused and viewed herself as a worthless, God deemed worthy and beautiful. What I didn’t know, was that all along God was preparing both of our hearts for the full life he intended for us to have.
After a rocky road of dating, he proposed to me. And this is the God I know. One who writes stories of redemption. He is full of grace and mercy. His compassion is never failing. He gives beauty for ashes. He takes our pain and molds us into the people he wants us to be…who can go out and proclaim His story to the world. By the way, we got married and a new chapter of my story began.
I was 23 years old.
We’ve faced a lot of challenges and I have very difficult consequences to live with everyday. My choices didn’t just affect me, but my husband, my children and my family. We all live with them everyday. Its painful and I have to daily walk in dependence on God for healing and victory. But, thank God that He works all things out together for the good of those who love him.
Again, things still weren’t a “happy ending.” I had a lot of wounds to heal from and it caused many hardships for my marriage. There were times that I felt abandoned by God but He always gave me faith. And after seven years of infertility, God delivered his promise with the birth of my almost three year old son, Chase.
God has made me more than a conqueror in Christ and I’ve learned that my identity isn’t in what I have done or what I do, but IN HIM ALONE. He has used my pain to make me a strong woman. And what a gift that is!
In the last ten years, I’ve had the privilege of serving in ministry alongside my husband, volunteered at pregnancy crisis centers, fostered over a dozen children in similar situations that I lived in as a child, mentored many teen girls, even worked at the agency I placed my beautiful son through, have written articles that have been published and just recently ran my second half marathon. These are things that I never would have imagined. I am stronger now for what I’ve been through and it was all part of His sovereign plan. In my story, God gets all of the glory for redeeming a captive in bondage and giving her a life full of joy and abundance! Thank God HE wrote my story instead of me.
I am 33 years old.