This is going to be a long post. Not sure I'll finish it tonight! I'd like to share the story of how God has been with me and working in my life from the beginning...
I was born in Birmingham, AL in July of 1979. I was born to Christian parents who went to church. Even so, that didn't prevent an ugly divorce between them when I was 2 years old. My mother went on to remarry when I was 2 1/2 to a man who had significant emotional struggles and took them out on his family in abusive ways. Life was tumultuous to say the least. But in the midst of all that my mother was faithful to teach me about God and the gift that he gave by sending his Son, Jesus, to be my Savior. I don't remember ever not believing in him. I would write in my school papers when it asked the question, "What is special about you?" I would say, "I am a Christian"!
When I was about 5 years old I felt really burdened to ask Jesus into my heart. I wanted Him with me always! I remember asking my mom quite a few times over the course of about a month before she said okay. I think she felt I was too young to understand. I remember the night that we kneeled at the couch and she read to me from this book what it meant to be a Christian. It wasn't just believing that God is real, and that Jesus lived and died for my sins, but also making him Lord of my life. Saying, "God, I give you myself, I will let you be in charge."
Well, a couple years later, when I was 7, I was abused in a very damaging way. I carried a guilt with me for many years and would pray nightly that God would forgive me. I didn't know that the abuse wasn't my fault.
When I was 10 my mom divorced my step-father. I was in 4th grade. I remember crying every day at my new school because we moved to Huntsville, AL right after the divorce. I slept with my mom and sisters every night.
Two years later as I was going into Middle School my mom remarried again. This time to a man I would describe as a soft, fun, teddy bear type. He was a comfort to my heart after living with years of abuse. Yet I carried a void, some might call it a "father" void, even though I had many fathers, there was a longing in me for a strong, faithful, protecting, loving Father. I didn't realize I was longing for God, my true Father who was all those things and more.
My youthful love for God began to fade away and what took it's place was a profound ache that wouldn't go away. I began to long for the attention and acceptance of boys. I started spending time with and sneaking out of the house at night with boys 4 and 5 years older than me. I began drinking and using drugs. Things got so bad that after a fight at school my parents transferred me to a Catholic school for 8th grade. This was a difficult change for me but at the same time, comforting. The structure and the atmosphere of religion met some of my needs.
Yet, the ache inside did not go away. I struggled with depression and would journal to God and cry out, "HELP ME GOD!!! I WANT TO DIE!" This was a common journal entry. I was so sad and so lost. God became more of a distant figure in my life that wasn't relevant, he didn't rescue me as I wanted.
When I finished 8th grade at the Catholic School I went to visit my biological father in New Mexico for the summer. He bought me a horse when I was there and I was entranced. I would ride this horse bareback down the rural highways and what I experienced was a freedom and an escape that I didn't have back home with my mom. I was hooked! I didn't want to leave my horse and I think part of my ache inside was a desire to know my biological dad better. So I stayed in New Mexico.
It was painful and I felt torn between my two parents. My mother had a VERY hard time with it. She basically disowned me. She told people she had 2 children rather than 3. It was so hard for me. I didn't want her to hurt but I felt it was the right thing for me to stay with my dad. Ugghhh.... it hurts to think about it.
Well, it didn't take too long for me to gravitate to the wrong crowd again in New Mexico. Again, I had the ache inside that I wanted to alleviate. So I once again turned to boys, partying, beer, and drugs. I snuck out of the house. And often times I didn't have to. My dad and step-mom would go out of town for weeks at a time and allowed me to stay at the apartment of two of the biggest party'ers in town! It wasn't hard to be bad in New Mexico! It was during this time that I began to cut myself with knives to dull the pain I felt inside. I have scars on my hands to this day from those painful times.
My parents divorce and continued strained relationship, and the way I felt so torn between them, was SO SO SO SO painful. I felt torn between two loyalties. The relationships that I had with boys and the drinking and party lifestyle I was living was killing me. It certainly wasn't filling the ache inside of me. I was becoming sadder and sadder. I went to church with my dad and step-mom on Sundays and I loved singing the old hymns like, "Just as I am" and "The old rugged cross". I was still attracted to God but I didn't know him. None of what I heard really sunk into my heart. My hurt was so big He just didn't help. It is almost like he wasn't relevant to me. It seemed I had no one. I would continue to cry out to him but nothing changed.
Well, after getting in big trouble for sneaking out of the house after my 10th grade year I went to visit my mom who lived in Atlanta, GA. She had moved there during my time with my dad. Since I knew I was going to be grounded upon return to New Mexico I decided I would move back to live with my mom! She was going to give me an old truck to drive and I would have a fresh start!
Again, this was painful for me. I knew I was going to hurt my dad to leave. But I would make my mom happy to come home. Agghhh, the tug of war in my heart!
Well, it won't be hard to believe that once again I fell in with the wrong crowd. I ended up becoming pregnant my 12th grade year. The became engaged to marry the father. That lasted about 2 weeks until I decided that I'd rather not get married and then get a divorce. I knew this relationship did not have forever potential. Bottom line, I didn't love this guy, and he wasn't what I had pictured as a husband! He was just another effort on my part to fill the hole inside of me!
Well, when I was about 14 weeks pregnant I received a certified letter in the mail. I crumbled when I read it. My driver's license was being revoked for 6 months! The baby would be 6 weeks old before I would get it back!!! What!!???? I had been speeding and just paid the ticket not realizing this law that said if you were under 21 and going 20 or more over the speed limit you would get your license suspended. If I had of known I would have gone to court and pled my case and hoped for leniency. But God had a better plan...
I sobbed and sobbed and sobbed until I couldn't cry anymore. My license was my ticket to life. It was going to enable me to drive myself to school, the doctor and all those things I needed to do to finish highschool and prepare for the baby. I couldn't imagine having to depend on my parents to drive me to all these things. For me, it was the worst (and the best) thing that could happen to me.
This was the thing that brought me to my knees before God. Here I was, finally and completely broken before him. I knew I couldn't continue to live without him! It was at this time that I asked God to take over and I gave him my life. I found a small baptist church up on a hill near my house and I told my mom, "That's where I want to go." And we started going there every Sunday. I would go Sunday morning, Sunday night, and Wednesday night. Every chance I could get.
Finally, God became real to me. I began to know who he was. He was real and very very relevant. And he loved me and accepted me. Me! The girl who had screwed up her life royally and gotten pregnant and was wracked with memories of her sinful past. He loved me anyways. Really, really loved me. He didn't condemn me for all my sins, he embraced me and filled up that hole inside of me and took away the ache in my heart. He said, "I'm your daddy. I love you. I'll never leave you. Your forgiven. Rest in me." And you know what? I did, and I have been resting in him since. I don't deserve what he has given me. I have done many many shameful things. But he loves me and I don't hurt anymore.
This is why I think about God every day. This is why I want to tell people about Jesus. This is why I teach my boys about God. I pray because I'm talking to the One who loves me and who is in charge of this whole world. I read the Bible because I want to know what he is like and I want to be like Him. He is my Hero. He is my friend. He is everything to me.