It has been on my heart for some time now that I should take some time to write out my personal testimony, and how I came to faith in Jesus Christ. It’s not easy to write these things down, to see in writing the mistakes I’ve made. It’s been such a long journey, and there are so many choices I’ve made that I am not the least bit proud of; but truth be told, I wouldn’t change any of it if I had the chance, because the mess I made of my life is what led me to my complete and utter dependence on the Lord.
So, here goes.
I suppose that the best place to begin is at the beginning. I was born in, shall we say, less than ideal conditions. My father was abusive and addicted to God only knows what kinds of drugs and alcohol. My mother was terrified of him, and so she stayed there with us kids. We moved around a lot, and there were even times when we were homeless. When I was 4, my father shot a man and was imprisoned for attempted murder. Not long after, my mother had an emotional breakdown, and left my brothers and myself with our grandparents. I was bounced around between family members and the physical and emotional abuse continued until I was 10, when I moved in with my father’s sister. Looking back, I can see that was the first point in my life when God began planting seeds in my heart. My aunt had never married and never had any children of her own, so she was able to focus her time and energy on helping me begin to heal from my childhood. She is a strong Christian woman, and immediately began taking me to church with her. Shortly after, I accepted the Lord into my heart and was baptized. (I was to learn later that there is a difference between being saved, and being surrendered!)
After moving in with my aunt, life really settled down for me and became somewhat “normal” for the first time in my life. In addition to my aunt, I also had my paternal grandparents nearby to help her raise me, and how they spoiled me! I truly felt loved and wanted – though I needed many years to heal and become a normal child. With the Lord’s grace that did eventually happen; however, some scars are never truly healed, and when certain things are done to a child, they have a permanent impact that often are not seen until the child is older. Of the many forms of abuse I suffered, one was molestation at the hands of my father. That, along with his sudden departure from my life led to me being obsessed with acceptance from males. I didn’t recognize it at the time, of course. I just thought I was a bit “boy crazy.” In high school, I could never go any length of time without a boyfriend. In my freshman year, I was particularly smitten with a rather popular boy. He knew this, and he knew that I was not among the more popular kids. He wooed me, and then led me to do physical acts with him that I am now very ashamed of. He never did ask me to be his girlfriend; he just used me and moved right along. I was crushed, and it further caused me to desperately seek after a guy who would actually stick around. In that attempt, I dated many boys, and gave pieces of my heart to every single one of them. I also gave too much of myself physically, because I truly believed that those were the sorts of things that boys wanted from girls if they were going to stay together.
My life went on like this for years, with me repeatedly offering my heart to boys, and it always ending in heartache. I had three back-to-back long term relationships (one, two and three years, respectively). The last and longest relationship was with someone I was actually engaged to, but we had grown apart, and it ended very badly after discovering he was cheating on me. At 22 years old, I was a completely broken mess. What I had learned from life at that point was that no one could be trusted. Everyone I loved and took a chance on (with the exception of my aunt) had walked out on me. I became even more desperate to FINALLY find someone and fulfill that dream life where I would have a wonderful husband who loved me, someone with whom I could have children and a happy home. It was at this point that I was introduced to my first husband. He walked into my life and completely swept me off my feet with promises of never ending love and a picture-perfect future. With everything I had been through, it’s not hard to understand why I fell for it so easily. Just 6 weeks after meeting him, we were married. The honeymoon was short-lived, sadly. Immediately after the wedding (which was held in the middle of the week at a courthouse, dressed in regular clothes, with no friends or family in attendance) he began to show his true colors. He was violently angry and abused me emotionally, physically and sexually. A couple of months into the marriage, I discovered that I was pregnant, even though we had been on birth control to prevent it. When I told him, he made promises that he would change, but it did not last long. By the time I was 3 months pregnant, I knew I had to leave. Any man who could put his hands on his pregnant wife and violently beat his dog was a man who was capable of harming his baby. When he discovered my plans to leave, he trapped me in the house and attempted to rape me. Thankfully, I had been able to call 911, and with the help of the police I was able to escape. My aunt, who had raised me, once again took me into her home in my hour of need. My then-husband was not going to let me go so easily though, and he ceaselessly harassed me and made all kinds of threats, including threatening to take our unborn child from me. I naively believed it could happen, and I was terrified.
There I was, broken and empty and at rock bottom. I had lost everything I had worked for when I hurriedly left my husband. I was pregnant, alone, and scared for my life. I finally had the meltdown that had been building for 22 years. When I looked at my life, I clearly saw the mess I had made of things. I repeatedly ignored the Lord’s tugs at my heart. I insisted of having control of my life and making all my own decisions. It was clear to me that whenever I was behind the wheel, it always ended in me crashing and burning. Finally, 12 years after asking the Lord into my heart, I became a surrendered Christian. I cried to the Lord to help me fix the mess I had made of things, for the sake of my child. And did He ever come through! The first answer to prayer was that the courts awarded me full custody with no visitation to my ex-husband, as well as a restraining order – and this was all done and finalized before my daughter was even born. I was able to breathe a sign of relief knowing that she would be safe. My aunt helped me raise her, and we were quite happy. I still had a bit of the boy-crazy bug, but it slowly went away. I finally gave up searching for someone to complete me, and gave that desire over to the Lord. I asked that God would give me a good man who would be a father to my daughter, but I was at peace with the idea that it may never happen. I focused on being happy as a single mom, and I knew joy and contentment as I had never known it before.
And then, the Lord answered my prayers once again. He put a friend into my life, who eventually began to mean more to me than just a friend. I fell in love again; but this time I knew it was for all the right reasons. God gave me a wonderful treasure in that man, and when my daughter was 2.5 I married again, knowing that this time it would be for keeps. The following year he adopted my daughter. It was not a perfect marriage, and we had (and still have) our struggles, but we have both been 100% committed to making it work.
One of the biggest trials for us early on was infertility. I desperately longed to have another baby, but month after month we were unsuccessful. We saw an infertility specialist, and after many tests were performed, we were told that we would never be able to have children naturally. We prayed about it, but we knew that IVF and IUI were not an option for us, so we left it in God’s hands. Shortly after that, we were overjoyed to discover that we were pregnant! God is full of surprises, however, and we ended up having three babies in less than 2.5 years! God has continued to bless us and work on our hearts. We have been convicted on a number of issues from trusting the Lord with our fertility, to the importance of modesty, down to the entertainment in our home. We live very conservative lives now. We homeschool for the emotional protection of our children, and we will be encouraging them to consider courtship when they are grown. It is my prayer that my daughters will be able to avoid the heartaches I endured as I gave my heart away again and again. I will encourage them to keep themselves pure and to save themselves for their husbands, because I know firsthand the pain caused by giving yourself to men who do not love you and will not treasure that special gift. I hope to impart wisdom on my children, and that they will learn from the mistakes I made. I pray that they will love the Lord with all their hearts, minds and strength, and that they will allow Him to guide their paths. I am still healing from my past, but I know that God is in control. There are still days when I am overcome by shame for the choices I have made, but I remind myself that God has forgiven me, and I wouldn’t be where I am today if I hadn’t made those mistakes and been allowed to learn from them. I have peace and joy, and I am excited to see where the Lord will lead my family in the years to come.