I was winding things down to get on an airplane & fly to a Women’s Conference in AL, to key speak to several hundred women. In preparation for this trip, I kept feeling like something was off balance. Waves of fear & confusion kept washing over me; unlike nervous jitters, it was crippling. I kept praying for the discernment & the answers to fall, but I was doing too much asking for the removal of the feelings instead of the revealing of the problem.
I asked God to unblock whatever it was that caused me such fear & a racing heart; to show me what my issues were & then I’d move into what came next. As He always does He revealed to me this: You have never shared your full story.
I know that may seem very unmagical in its simplicity, but for me it’s something I knew all along. You can’t deny the prompts that chomp at you, no matter how you try to ignore them. I felt as if God was saying, “How can you take a stage & speak without ever sharing the full spectrum of you in one place?” I also felt He was protecting me for & from something down the road, as to say, “No one can ever use your past or your stories against you, when you have been wholly healed & made them public on your own accord.”
In the middle of preparing notes for that conference, I typed a second set. I organized a night with the Bible class I teach at church & told them I was giving my testimony- the entire thing. I invited them to come & listen.
It was the night before I was to board my plane & leave. I tearfully & shakily reading it off paper like a speech vs speaking it like I’d lived it because truthfully, I didn’t want to look up.
It was the longest, shortest moment of my life, but I told it. All of it without full details of course, but the general story. I held my breathe in anticipation for backlash & people passed out in the floor from shock. But instead I was absolutely floored at the responses I received- that night & in the weeks that followed. So many women said, “Me too!” They had just waited for so long for someone to validate their secret places & say: “I know you because I was once there also & we’re going to be perfectly fine. Through my story & over time, I hope to teach you the ‘how to’ aspect of the heal so you’ll know a God who is truly amazing”.
I have never in my life felt so free & so light. Only a few times in my life have I felt such instant removal of weight. I boarded a plane the next day & shared a different story with those at the conference, the one God placed on me to share, no doubt, but I always wondered what might have happened, if just maybe I would have told them the story I spoke to the 50+ women a few nights before- my story.
My son who is older now, told me after that conference that I needed to post up my testimony notes- on here, for someone to read or maybe stumble across when the timing is right.
I hope you the reader, will understand this story is pieces of my life. Some of the things in this story happened to me, some things happened by my choices, some things happened in the aftermath of both. Nonetheless, I’m not sharing from a standpoint to ask you to agree or disagree with any portion of the material.
I’m not sharing from a place that wants you to assume you have done something wrong if your pains are still there or that I have more faith. It’s also not being shared to convert anyone who does not care for these Christian stories.
I am sharing for the one. Just one that may pick up this story today or years from now & say, “Somebody else gets it. They empathize with my journey.” From this platform I pray God will tether us into something that is part of a divine plan. I don’t know how your healing arrives or has arrived, but mine is from God, through Jesus Christ. That is my story. That is the song I sing. It is my truth.
There is never full comfort in sharing your ugly. Nothing feels quite as nauseating as the seconds before hitting send, overcoming the anxiety that asks yourself, “Remind me again why I am doing this?” Please be tender with others stories, as they take a remarkable amount of courage to come forward & share them.
If you’re the praying kind, I ask that you remember those who have walked different streets in their life than you. Maybe you could not ever dream of having an abortion or a divorce. Depression issues or binge drinking seem unfathomable, but it’s reality for many- many whom you love who have buried their pasts deep inside.
Let’s uncross our arms, stand in that gap & pray healing from shame & secrets many women/men carry. Instead of trying to assume our way into God’s place of position & power over their stories, let’s embrace that we all have a right to walk in our freedom & stop chaining others to a life they may not live anymore.
In no particular order/age/details, I’ll start with a list of labels that I identify with & work from there. It’s easier to dump it all out in the floor & work from ground up. I find it hard to walk through over 40+ years of living, so bear with me. I also wish the essay could be a bit shorter, just know it could be longer.
Hello, My Name Was:
- abuse across the board
- mental blocks
- binge drinking
- cigarette smoking
- experimentation with drugs
- sexual promiscuity
- clinical/chemical depression via serotonin brain imbalance
- self torment through thoughts
- night terrors
- low self-esteem
- distorted body image
- tubal pregnancy
- doubt in everyone
- distrust in everyone, especially women
- disbelief in a loving God
- loss of hope & joy
- single mom
- 0 college education
- panic attacks
Nice list? Sadly I’m sure there’s more, but this was all I could drum up on a whim.
It’s hard to believe those things took up residency in my body & mind & life for so long. If you knew the list of stories & details attached to each label, you would know only a super natural God could be given the credit for the fact that I have any walking around sense in my head.
Maybe you can relate to some of those labels? Maybe your list is identical? Maybe you’re appalled & need to log off?
There are always people we can blame for our labels, especially when your life starts with physical and/or mental abuse. To the point that you somewhere between childhood/adolescence become a self-abuser because pain is all you know as a normal foundation.
When all you are ever told is a series of lies about yourself, at some point it’s hard not believe them. When you start to accept the blame or shame as what you deserved, you lay the path for a life of backlash & wandering. You build walls so thick that it would take a supernatural force to chisel them down.
After years of living in the pitch black, one day a small speck of light shines through a hole in the crack of those walls you built & you know…. you know a force that can only be super nature has been inside you the entire time. Had it arrived naturally you would have been able to fix yourself a long time ago.
You have to accept the day/minute/second that you say, “I’ve had enough of living & thinking this way. The pain is still there no matter how much I try to numb it & I want to live in the fullness of healing.” To decide that no matter what it takes, you’ll never stick those labels & name tags on yourself again- or at least you’ll fight like hell not to do it.
When you hit your knees alone, with EVERY thing dirty, ragged & exposed & you can say those things out loud, from a place that says, I am truly sorry God. For ALL of it. I am sorry & I want nothing but to feel forgiven & cleansed. Then, you will start to free yourself from a prison of torment… it’s there He comes to you fully. In the surrender.
It’s the hardest thing you’ll ever do- to go one on one with God for the 1st time. I don’t mean in flimsy prayer. We’ve shown up our entire lives with a grocery list of stuff we want. The list that says, “I’m sorry because I got caught.” The list that looks like a Christmas list. Maybe a list that says in a hangover or life crisis, “I won’t ever do that again, if you do this for me God,” type of list.
I’m not talking about wishes & wants. What I mean is the very first time you allow yourself to be turned completely inside out. You wail & long for something you KNOW is there but cannot see. A place so deep, you cannot even control yourself…. it’s there He comes to you fully. In the surrender.
You face it all. Admit it all & you really crave to be tuned differently. You want your life with Him to be relational, not religious. To be taught the pulling up of your cross. What it means to die to self & filled with His Spirit.
It’s in those moments of revelation & exposure before Him, that you stand to your feet & try to never pick up again, what you placed before Him. Try.
The only way to try to go forward is to seek someone & some thing that is not yourself. Someone who knows you from the inside out, because He created those parts of you. That’s the place you must go.
You must admit many things… then you must forgive a million more. True forgiveness. Not the emotion you think is forgiveness, but the actual act of forgiving. To accept that you will never get many of the apologies that you think would change everything, if she or he would just own up to it.
If I can be honest, some of those apologies I have received & they didn’t heal a thing for me. The ones I haven’t received probably wouldn’t change things either. Time has already woven itself into me/you & made deposits into our guts & our memory banks. “I’m sorry” may sound like the end to it all, but it’s not, it won’t be. The only sorry that will ever bring you freedom is the one YOU personally bring before God in repentance & the peace He provides when you release needing a response from others for their actions.
When you realize during your entire journey He hovered & danced over you. He waited. He breathed silent heavenly breath & words into the darkness of your life when you thought you were alone. For me, I never knew Him like I do now or will in the future, but I always knew inside me something was different.
Even as a little girl in the chaos & the mess of a cycle of poison being dragged from one generation to the next, I knew a difference was in me. He was in me. I had the power to stop the poison & sever the root. For me & for my future generations. I could re-write that legacy. I knew that I would be the hinge where everything would pivot. I just didn’t have any idea how those pieces would ever connect or how to walk that out.
God knew I was coming to HIM for HIM. I didn’t expect a God wand to be waved over me granting me things & wishes. Just Him. Just Jesus. To understand it all. To finally freak “get” all of the things people have torn to shreds re: the beauty & holiness of a relational God.
No denominations. No people. No set of rules. No twisting of the word. Nothing but ME & HIM. God knew I was real & truthful in my asking & pursuit. In my transparency He showed up. He knew I was starving & thirsting towards a spiritual death my entire life, but He also knew I was open to being taught.
To unlearn every incorrect opinion fed to me by people & allow Him to break me. Week after week I sacrificed more time than I could calculate & began studying & communing with the Spirit to understand what all of this means to me. I my secret places some answers came, sometimes peace came instead, but nothing came without my devotion to communication through prayer & the Word. There I found in Him; I found healing for my scabs. I allowed myself to be built again & scarred in in places that had been a lifetime of exposed wounding.
I had my daughter at 36. Her name is Grace. She is a miracle list a thousand fold. At the time she was born we already had a son who was 13. This story is what I call before & after G(g)race. In more ways than you will know.
In 2011, I had been back in an actual church building regularly for a bit over a year. This was the 1st time anything like that had occurred since I was a pre-teen. It was also the 1st time ever I was in Bible studies consistently & had been for devoted for roughly 8 months. It was ’11 I had been invited to attend a Beth Moore simulcast. My first.
I went into that day very heavy hearted & low on faith, despite being in church for that year. We’d hit a lull with Grace’s medical healings. Chase & Jason who came to church weekly just to appease me, were not even close to salvation. My then 13 year old, after all this time in church still refused to go to youth group because he thought it was cheesy & lame & to be honest, part of me agreed.
I had none of my old friends anymore because of my new life. My marriage was so tired & exhausted from caring for a sick child, that I felt we were roommates. I lived in specialists offices with Grace at least 2 or more times a week for over a year. I couldn’t even connect with women through play groups or church events because all I wanted to do was cry. Who wants a downer coming around all the time? I really felt depression & hopelessness rising up from the pit.
It seemed the closer I became to God, Satan would kick me right in the teeth & I’d let him. During the Saturday Simulcast I started to feel a churning & pulling, a burning that I hadn’t felt before in my life. I had been saved & baptized when I was 5, but that was more routine than it was a divine call into spiritual maturity. Yes, I feel it planted my seed, but it was not the same as what was happening to me in that moment; in the Spirit.
I decided during that praise & worship song, when it finished, I was going to die. I was done. Truly done. This is the type of surrender I mentioned in the paragraphs above. I’d honestly before God had enough & I didn’t know what was going to happen next, but I was deciding right there, that I chose death. I told God this is it, I have made my decision.
I took a long walk to the front & into the arms of a prayer warrior, who opened her heart to me & I did it… I died to myself. To me. In the snap of a finger I felt free. I wept tears of a lifetime. For everything done to me & by me. Everything I’d done to others. The medical journey my daughter was on & its unfairness. The failures. The list of regret, forgiveness & dying was very long. But, finally so much of it was over. The woman & I stayed in contact for a very long time after that day & she was allowed to see 1st hand the beauty of answered prayer in the things that unfolded after I walked out of that church.
After that day I felt God saying to me, before I could continue forward, I needed to right some wrongs where I had been at fault. I was not someone who did things like that, so you can imagine the discipline it took for me to me to accept this was not a mistake in my self-talk.
I started making phone calls & sending emails asking people to forgive me of things I had done to wrong or hurt them. People who had not heard from me in years & definitely had never heard me like this. I had deposited pain into many through my words & actions over the years, because I had been a mess of a person with no self-control. Every individual God popped in my mind, every mild or major memory where I was at fault, I found them & apologized. No buts, just straight apology on the part of myself that had handled herself in the only way she had ever felt naturally back then- a reactor.
It was the most unreal feeling. I can’t ever place it into words. Many forgave me, many did not. Many wouldn’t answer the phone, so I would leave apology voice mails. I sent emails I never got replies over. But, it was so peaceful & I was ok with no response. I am not a hero by any means. It’s just the first thing I’d really ever done in accordance with obedience & allowing God to put my pride on hold.
Shortly after the encounter at the simulcast, my son started attending youth group. Soon after that, he accepted Jesus; 4 days later we baptized him at the beach. I decided in the same month of his salvation, to be re-baptized myself. For no other reason except I felt God calling me to do it. At 36 yrs old I came of that water free of so many things on the list of darkness & labels that I posted above.
3 months later my husband stepped out of & went forward to accept Christ & received baptism. It was one of those moments where time stopped for me. I had prayed for it for so long, but when the prayer was actually being answered before my eyes, I felt I had left my body.
A woman who never liked women, couldn’t stand them actually, was called to lead the Women’s Ministry on Wednesday mornings. All of these years later I still teach Bible classes, but in a direct Word, Inductive environment. (The irony He chose me still gets me every time I am in the car on my way there).
We became active in serving the homeless & a list of community service & global outreach so long & full of God’s hand that I was floored at the supernatural connections He provided.
The son who had refused youth ministry a year before, raised monies for mission trips to Costa Rica, paid in full 2 yrs in a row. He was able to serve others & the share the Gospel Message of Christ. Layer upon layer of amazing testimony that I don’t have the time to even lay out started to unfold. The NICU nurse that bagged Grace back to life the night she was born ended up in my Bible class 2 years later & we were able to minister to each other in very unique ways. I still don’t think I can wrap my mind around what God has done for the 4 of us in such a very short amount of years or the people He’s brought in/out of our lives during various seasons.
I had a past of miscarriage & another loss in Oct. of 2009 where I was rushed into surgery where doctors removed a baby & my left tube, due to tubal ligation pregnancy. I was told with my history, age & only one working tube & ovary remaining, I could expect no more babies.
Only 2 months after being told no more babies… there was a positive pregnancy test announcing in fact, there may be a baby. After I was told I couldn’t, God said you will. On Christmas Eve 2009, the guys & I stood in a little room & heard a miracle…. the miracle of a heart beating. A heart that fought Satan & burst through every wall hell could throw in her way. A pregnancy that had something medically wrong at least once or more a week. A pregnancy that ended 5 weeks early & way before schedule because she was fighting to get out. A baby who was born gray because a cord was triple wrapped around her neck. A baby who stopped breathing on a table next to me & had to be bagged back to life. A baby I didn’t even get to hold for 4 days after her birth.
I was a mom who would sit in a wheelchair with my face pressed into a plastic crate, until the sun came up or the nurses made me leave, just so I could put momma’s skin & pulse on at least one body part not connected to a wire/tube/needles. I was forced to leave that baby in the NICU before I had even held her. When I finally did it was for the shortest 15 minutes of my life. She was 3 weeks old before we ever saw her face without tubes in it. A baby who was born with a rare thyroid disease. A baby who we sat with 11 ½ hours a day for a month & wondered when life would be right. When would we laugh again?
A baby who showed signs & was genetically tested for a late diagnosis of Mosaic Downs Syndrome. A baby we were told had a damaged, low IQ brain & to expect having an under performing, very special needs child. A baby who had an enlarged liver, low muscle tone, over sized head, was a choking hazard & a projectile vomiter.
She would spend her 1st years, several times a week in the care of specialists…. a baby who we were told would never arrive, then when she did, they repeatedly told us she wouldn’t function normally- like any of us do. The group of they’s said she would be mentally challenged & again to prepare ourselves. By the time she was 2, we’d know for sure how behind she really was, they said.
God, well He said something different. He said, “She will overcome much of this.” She will write a story into the medical books penned by a divine hand.
I remind you this baby came before the salvation stories I shared earlier. We had no church. No family who even lives in the state we reside. No dependable friends then. I was back-slidden & my husband wasn’t a believer. He wasn’t an atheist, but he didn’t believe in the church or its people. He, including me, viewed the church as hypocrites, so we knew no where to turn in our grief except desperation. Ironically, that desperation turned us to prayer during those long NICU days.
I assembled a prayer team from those I thought were “legit.” Maybe their prayers would be heard because mine were obviously going to fall on deaf ears after all the years I had wandered off the narrow path.
I know we don’t make deals with God, but one of those nights after having a very bad medical day with Grace, I came home, still not recovered from pregnancy & childbirth; hormones & heart a complete mess- I got in the closet floor of my bedroom & said to God through deep wailing “I know I don’t really know you. I don’t really even know if you’re real. Everything bad I prayed not to happen to this baby has happened & how could you do this? If you are real & if you save her life, I swear I will live the rest of my life serving you. I don’t even know how to do that. Teach me to do that, I don’t care how, but please save her life & bring her home to us. When you do, I swear I will never stop telling people our story!” That’s what I said.
God is all knowing. I know now that Grace’s story was always to be written this way. I also know there are many people who’ve cried out for things they did not receive, therefore shutting the door on God altogether. God knew we were going to experience this & He knew this was how our story would be told. I don’t have answers for anyone else. I only can answer for what I have lived, discovered & received personally. We are not holier, more blessed or higher measured. We have fought & still fight many battles. God just decided we would see His hand in our lives in this way.
Grace was 3 months old before we were free to leave the house & go into public places as a family because of her low immune system. At 3 months old we started attending the church I had mentioned above. A few months later I started taking her with me to that Bible class I eventually took over & people started praying over her. I began deep Bible study & prayer every day with her attached to my side. The anointing fell over her like a blanket. Since she was just a few months old, God & His word is all she has ever known.
By a year old she was off the charts with her IQ. Already able to recognize the entire alphabet, numbers 1-20, & lists of things by intellect that is unheard of for any toddler that age. We were released from 3 specialists because her symptoms had just “disappeared” in several areas. By 2 years old, the dreaded age that we were told in the NICU would be the age we knew how bad her brain had been damaged had arrived. At that very Endocrinologist appt. instead of diagnosing damage, they were bringing other specialists in see her. She was reading & communicating on a 4 year old’s levels at TWO. Even now, I cannot explain to you what her abilities have become. It’s unreal. When they said, “no” God said, “I AM & I CAN do whatever I want.”
I feel God worked this set of miracles for her the way He did, because it’s her story; it’s ours. He knew it would be turned around & told to give Him full glory, as we had no part to boast in any of it.
The transforming changes in her journey, transformed our entire family & impacts everyone who knows her/us. I promised Him I would go forward, vocal as I could be & after all of these years I’m not aware of a day that I don’t mention Him in some way. Not one day.
God knew every piece of my life story would all come together & make perfect sense to me, especially the rough patches. He also knows how the things we are living out on a daily basis, especially the challenges, will fit into a greater story down the road. He didn’t bring us this far to withdraw on His promises, despite the thoughts the enemy tries to use to manipulate my mind.
You see, just like Paul & his thorn, often God keeps a few of ours around so we don’t forget our redemption, what we came from & our need for a Savior. 2 Cor. 12:7-10, says Paul , “Therefore, in order to keep me from becoming conceited, I was given a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan, to torment me. Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.”
Grace will never have a thyroid. She will always be on medication for it. She will always have lab work. One day she will overcome speech, OT & PT classes. Her self control will mature. Her sensory issues will dissipate. She will have fears diminished.
She never got to choose the way her life began, like any of us, but I will make sure until the day I pass that I spend every ounce of strength I have, reminding her that we do get to choose how this life will press forward & what we will do with it.
Chase & Jason will always have the stories of their lives, especially the ones that I cannot tell you. I protect their journeys. Nobody can talk about their places of pain or reality like they can, so I will leave that for a day they feel prompted to share. Only they can tell their stories, not me.
I will forever be in battle. I know that, I accept that. Especially the battle field of my mind. I decided when I was 27 years old, to go unmedicated for a chemical imbalance. There are many reasons I chose this path. It may not be your road, but it’s been mine & I speak from my experience. Trust me, I know warfare of the mind & praying yourself down. God has been great to cover me & I am very thankful for His guidance, but it’s a daily, often hourly pressing into Him.
I’ve been judged for my choices over the years, but like the quote says, “You didn’t see the options I had to choose from.” It’s been said I talk too much, type too much in length. At times I get too preachy or my voice tone rises because I get so excited & passionate in the matters of God. When you have a story of redemption this large how do you stay silent? How do quiet praise?
Whether it’s online, on a platform, in a grocery store or in person, I will never close my mouth about the goodness of a healing, delivering God. For too many years of my life I was made to feel like I had nothing intelligent or important to say & silence was my prison. Guess what? Those chains are broken & I don’t have stay shushed in a little corner anymore.
Please know there is a lot more to this story of me than I had time to write you. Over time I hope to share more pieces & in detail. Know that I understand you & what you may have gone through. Someone once told me, “When I look into your eyes I see such an old soul. It’s like you’ve lived hundreds of lifetimes.” I wasn’t even 30 yrs old at that time.
She was right. I have. Most people who would have lived my entire journey as a whole, wouldn’t be here right now. Many people I knew are not. Many others I know are so medicated or drug enhanced in numbness, they don’t even know the meaning of reality. Even though my story is written with a lot of brokenness & sadness, it’s laced with beauty & joy. If I had another one to tell I would, but it’s the only one I have.
God never left my side & I never had to endure one second of these years alone. I know that now. I felt it even then. In those quiet hours where you feel that comfort when you shouldn’t feel anything, it’s Him.
Our scars & stories are meant to connect us not separate us. We are all women & men who at some point were innocent little girls & boys who needed a chance. The chance is STILL there even if someone or some event took that moment away when you weren’t looking. It’s not your fault. It never was. Meet Him today at His feet & I swear to you, He will wash you clean.
Every day will be a new battle but it’s so much more powerful & satisfying to fight with Him in strength, than to fight on your own & always end up facing the same enemies & demons in weakness.
Many people don’t share or tell their stories because of embarrassing themselves or other people around them. I feel like if other people wanted their part in your story to be told differently, then they should have played a different role in your life, or at least a better one. You don’t have time to manage regrets & heap shame on your back.
Once you decide to die to your former self, He’ll breathe the love of Himself, the very breath of heaven into you as well. Once you feel it, you’ll never separate from it again. Will you fail? Yes. Will you be disappointed at times? Of course. The moments of deepest relationship with God is when you have Him 1st. 1st over everything.
I started my story with a list of labels I carried throughout my life. I’d like to end with a new list I’ll carry to the finish line. FINALLY believing these words because He says so & because I know truth in my soul.
I pray that you will know Him in the fullness of love & peace He provides. That He will also be the life song you sing for the rest of your days.
Hello, My New Name Is:
Psalm 71:5-8, NLT:
O Lord, you alone are my hope.
I’ve trusted you, O Lord, from childhood.
Yes, you have been with me from birth;
from my mother’s womb you have cared for me.
No wonder I am always praising you! My life is an example to many, because you have been my strength and protection. That is why I can never stop praising you; I declare your glory all day long.