I am so thankful to begin this new year as a part of this ministry. Before I jump right in though, I think some introductions are in order. I am a true believer in the fact that, for you to understand and get a deeper look into the heart of a message, you need a pretty good picture of where that person has been and what God has rescued them from. A visibly transformed life can have a major impact on the world around you.
Ten years ago, if you would have asked someone to describe me, I’m afraid they would’ve used adjectives like angry, lost, empty, aggressive, broken, self-destructive… I’ll stop there, I’m sure you get the picture.
After moving around for a good part of my childhood as a military brat, we finally settled in Western Kentucky where most of our family was. Within our home, there was no prayer, no Bible reading, no foundation of faith. I don’t blame my parents. They were both very young and did the best they could while dealing with their own childhood trauma.
To spend as much time as I could with my grandmother, I began going to church with her every Sunday. The bond that I had with that very special lady is something I could never describe in written words. We were inseparable. I remember sitting beside her each Sunday, in amazement, as she gracefully played the piano during worship. She loved me like I had never felt love before and made me feel deserving of that love. Around the time I would be starting middle school, something terrible happened. My grandmother was life-flighted to Barnes Hospital in St. Louis because her heart was failing. I can remember my aunt picking my sister and me up from school and taking us to the movies to keep us distracted. Fortunately, she was blessed with the opportunity for a transplant, and it seemed like everything was going to be ok. She lived for eleven years after the transplant. The last two years of her life were the two years of my life that the devil used to catapult me into a lifetime worth of anger and emptiness. The medication she had to take to keep her body from rejecting the new heart destroyed her kidneys. She began dialysis several times a week but was withering away. I watched her light and life slowly fade as she suffered every second until the end. The questions, fueled by anger, started flowing. Why her? She went to church! She played music in church! She loved the God that was supposed to love her back! She was too young! Could there really be this all-loving God? No, there couldn’t, He wouldn’t do this.
That anger combined with a life that was in a constant state of chaos due to a lack of involvement, lack of faith, substance addiction, abuse, and family members who were out of control…I was left to let the anger, sadness, and loneliness open the door for the devil to make himself at home. I began trying to fill that brokenness and emptiness with every terrible thing this world has to offer; partying, attention from anyone willing to give it, and more and more anger.
When I was 21, I became pregnant. Of course, we had to get married because that’s what a good southern woman does to save face. But this wasn’t all bad. I started to feel a little peace and happiness. I thought I loved the man I was marrying, we were going to have a child, I was doing great in college and could still finish so everything was fine. The day I had to say goodbye forever to that baby, I felt myself break. I can remember it vividly. Any anger that had been buried came erupting to the surface. That was it! There definitely is no God, and if there was, He could care less about any of us! That is what I told myself for years. I was an anthropology major in school, so there was no shortage of professors who were quick to reinforce that thought with scientific facts and figures. And boy was I ready to argue with anyone who dared to try and convince me that there was a loving God and that “He had a plan”, and that “there was a reason for everything”. I was educated, had an aggressive personality and was motivated by so much anger that the devil had a field day with me. I did what I could to try and convince everyone around me to give up on all those silly stories and rules created by men to control society. The only person I know I successfully pulled away was my own mother.
My marriage was anything but happy. How could it be? We were so young, and I was so volatile. We each turned to different ways to numb the pain. Two years after the loss of our first child, we were both preparing to graduate college and had big plans for our future. But God had a different plan. I became pregnant with Chloe. It was a shock because due to health issues, I wasn’t expected to be able to have any more children. When that child was born, I felt myself begin to heal. Just as I felt myself break when I said goodbye to my first child, I felt myself, LOVE. Really love. I knew then that she was sent to me for a reason and that there had to be “something” or “someone” out there because this kind of love could not be explained with science. But I had no understanding or faith to fall back on. I was the poster child for someone who was “lost”.
I struggled for years after Chloe was born. Her father and I couldn’t seem to get through past hurts, and our marriage was so unstable that we divorced when she was one. I was a single mother moving from place to place and job to job. I know now that I was moving every year because I was running. Running from my sadness and emptiness. But no distance ever made a difference. I was still angry and lost. Along the way, everywhere I went; I met and got to know bold Christian men and women that tried their best to lead me to Jesus. Each planting seeds. I would always disregard them though. Until one person, someone I had grown to love, all but forced me to go to church. I started attending on Sundays. I enjoyed the singing and meeting new people but would zone out and not pay attention to much else. But one day was different, I woke up feeling different. I went into the church, sat in my pew by myself as usual and listened, really listened. I didn’t feel alone. I had been so ashamed of myself for so long, thinking that even if there was a God, “How could He love me now? Look at what I’ve done, what I’ve said!” That day, I heard and felt that He does love me because Jesus loves me! He suffered and died for me! ME! Not just the righteous people that have never fallen. Me! I could feel Him right there with me as I fell apart. Almost like He had His arm around me as I finally let go of all that anger, shame and guilt and gave it to Him.
On August 8, 2009, at the age of 28, I was baptized. And I’ve never been the same. The devil didn’t and still doesn’t make it easy, but now “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me
I saved the happiest part of my testimony for the end.
The sorrow I felt for convincing my mother there was no God was unbearable. I prayed for years for God to allow me to bring my mother to know Jesus. On Mother’s Day of 2017, my mom gave her life to Jesus and was baptized. Now we worship Him together!
You see, that is what we are created to do. To be transformed through God’s Grace and to live it out each day to be a living testimony to those around us. I pray for the Holy Spirit to guide me down a path that helps those as lost as I once was.
“Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come.” 2 Corinthians 5:17
“ ‘The son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son.’ ” “For this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.’ So they began to celebrate.” Luke 15: 21,24