Sipping sweet tea

I was in my early twenties when I met him. He was so charismatic, funny, charming, smart, and cute. He was a DJ and locally “famous”. He said I was beautiful every day. Literally every day, he told me how beautiful I was and how much he loved me. He told me he loved my body. I followed him everywhere, to the grocery store, to his new apartment because he decided to move to my town (leaving his children and their mother), and followed him all over Florida for years. When things went wrong we always moved back to our hometown and stayed with one of our parents, weaving together whatever lies we needed to just long enough to stay. 

Then I got it. I got what I believe was my first big obvious warning from God (who I didn’t know yet) that this was not the man for me. 
He wasn’t working at the time and had developed a habit of not coming home at night. On this particular morning, I knew where he was and I drove over there before work to get him. I found him locked in a room with a hooker and a bunch of drugs. He was drunk. I was so angry, upset, and confused. I tried to leave, but he followed me. We argued on the porch. I slapped his cheek, he spit on my face, then put me in a head lock and pushed me to the ground. I remember my face being pressed onto the wood planks of the porch at the house where he was partying night before. Don’t get me wrong, I had partied too, just not on nights where I had to work in the morning. He was good at putting people in headlocks; he’d been a wrestler in high school. But he’d never done it to me before. Not once. That morning in particular, he didn’t want me to leave because I got paid that day and we had drugs we needed to buy. I tried to get In the car and leave, but he took my keys and wallet with my ID so I couldn’t cash my paycheck. Finally all the screaming must have woken up one of his drunk buddies. They stumbled out asking what the heck was happening and they convinced him to give me my stuff back so I would just leave. They didn’t want the neighbors to call the cops. 

I drove home, woke up my mom and cried to her. She said he couldn’t stay in her home anymore. I wailed “I can’t start over! I’m too old. I can’t do this without him. My life is over.” 

Truth is, my life wasn’t over, it was just starting to roll down hill, and as it did it would gain momentum, getting faster and faster. Quickly approaching the dreaded “rock bottom” where everything would come to a halt. Rock meets rock. My rock would shatter into a million pieces. Then, left with nothing but shards of a broken life, I would look around and find myself completely alone.
But rock bottom was still at least 6 years away from that morning. I still had so much awfullness to face. So much loneliness and darkness, terrifying moments that would make that morning on the front porch feel like sitting in a rocking chair with your neighbor sipping sweet tea.

Most importantly, I still had to find God. Of course He was always there, waiting for me, but I didn’t know it. He was just waiting for my messed up life to come into alignment with His plans for me. God was waiting for me to want something greater, better, safer; something more. Something I could only find through Him.

And thank God I would.

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Surrendered and Free

Five months ago my husband attempted suicide. Four months ago I was in a bad car accident, totaling my car. Three months ago the abuse in my marriage escalated to physical abuse.

But God was there. He never took His eyes off me. He gave me Splendid and women who poured light and love and Jesus into my soul.

Less than three months ago, in a matter of hours I decided to leave my whole life behind trusting that God had something better for me. I left my husband in a whirlwind of tears and fear. I quit my job and lost my health insurance. I had no car, no job, no money. I had my purse and a couple of outfits.
Who would have thought in the midst of that chaos I would find peace. True peace like I’ve never known before, and rest and hope and love.

Surrendered and scared, I cried out to God. I didn’t know what I wanted. I was so confused about everything. So I asked for peace.
He heard me and answered. I received peace and so much more. So many truly unbelievable things have happened. Unbelievable … but God.
So many blessings. All because I surrendered to God, confessed the truths in my heart, acknowledged the lies i was living and chose Jesus.

Six months since my life fell apart I now have an amazing job, my own money in the bank, health insurance, reunited relationships with my family, and new friends. Today I’m flying to Texas to see my best friend and join her at IF:Gathering.

Yes, God is with us all time. Even in the hard stuff. Especially in the hard stuff.

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Part 1: Y2K didn’t change the world, but it almost killed me.

This is Part 1 of my testimony. There will be many more parts. I hope you’ll be back to read the rest because this story, though messy at times, ends beautifully in the arms of Jesus Christ.

The year 2000, is when it happened. I was living in South Florida, going to college, and working at Hooters. Yes, I was a Hooter’s girl for about 7 years. It was an awesome job at the time. I made tons of money; none of which I put to good use. Now stay with me here because it goes with the story: most people think that having large breasts are a requirement for working at hooters, but you’d be wrong. I didn’t have large breasts, though most of my friends did because they’d gotten breast augmentation surgery (that’s the nice way to say “boob job”).

I promise this is going someplace; please keep reading.

I decided to get a “boob job” too. Some of the girls I most admired at Hooters, the pretty ones, the cool ones, the ones I wanted to be like, were getting boob jobs. So why not me? I said it was for my self-esteem and happiness. However, in the background of my life there was my boyfriend (now EX-boyfriend, a man who I’d rather not talk about because he’s not worth it). He whispered in my ear his nicknames for my breasts: “droopy” and “floppy”. My self-esteem plummeted. So, did I get the surgery for myself, to inflate my self-esteem, or to inflate “droopy” and “floppy” for his sake? It doesn’t matter, that’s not the “thing” that happened – you know, that thing I mentioned in the first sentence of this post.

After the surgery, I was prescribed painkillers. Most people take painkillers and get tired or nauseous, but not me. Painkillers deceived me; they lied. They made me feel happy, cool, fun, strong, invincible, and confident. But truly, I was none of those things, and after some time, they made me addicted. My doctor kept prescribing them much longer than he should have, and after that I found a way to get them on the street. It was a dangerous and expensive endeavor.

So, sixteen years ago, I was 22 years old, 500 miles from home, and addicted to painkillers. My addiction got much worse, along with the rest of my life. I dropped out of school and left my boyfriend. I was very manipulative and promiscuous to get what I wanted, and “couch hopped” (which means I was homeless), until I ran out of money. Then I sat and tried to figure out how to end it all.

I remember that night vividly. Sitting on my friend’s living room floor around New Year’s Eve. She was away visiting family. It was a beautiful apartment, nothing I could afford on my own. I was alone, except for my beloved dog (pictured below). I was trying to figure out how to get help without actually having to ask for help. I came up with an idea. The idea involved a bottle of pills, a bottle of vodka, and driving until something happened.

Please come back for the rest of my testimony. I promise it’s an amazing story.

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My Shih Tzu, Pooky. My reason for staying alive that night.

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Awe and wonder.

I’ve been trying to figure out how to split my wondrous story of coming to Jesus into blog sized posts. It’s a difficult task because there are so many amazing things I want to tell you. So many epic ups and downs and moments that will steal your breath away. So today, I thought I would just start with the basics. What I’ve learned. The treasures I hold dear to my heart.

God’s love is indescribable. So why am I trying to describe God’s love here with mere words? This is my feeble attempt to express my awe and wonder at the Glory of my Savior. God loves you. No matter what you do or say, God loves you. Nothing can change that. God knows the answer to your question before you ask it. God has gone before you and solved your problems before you even know you have a problem. God knows what we need everyday, he knows what’s in our hearts and our minds. He provides for us every minute of every day. So I thank Him. I praise His name and I’m sharing my story to bring glory to God for saving my life.

The only thing I could possibly compare it to is the love that my earthly daddy has for me. My daddy’s love is undeniable, unconditional, uncompromising, and never ending. So is God’s love.

God’s love is never ending. He waited for me, watching over me, day after day, year after year, until I finally opened my eyes and saw Him. Even during the years when I didn’t love Him, when I was denying Him and saying blasphemous things, He loved me. He never gave up on me. And that, friends, is exactly what my daddy does for me.

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The best decision I almost never made.

She said “you should join this online Bible study called IF:Equip“.

I respond “me, a Bible study? I’ve hardly ever even opened a Bible. What good would this do me? What would I have to offer? I’d be a kindergartner in a college class. No, I can’t do that.”

She kept encouraging me. I kept saying “no”. I said no 10,000 times (approximately) before I finally said “OK”, and I signed up for the online Bible study IF:Equip – http://www.ifequip.com.

I get one email a day with scripture to read, a short video to watch, and a place to leave comments.

I thought surely these Christian women, who had been raised in church, would laugh at me and scoff at my lack of knowledge. But they didn’t. They welcomed me with warm virtual hugs, positive and uplifting words, advice, explained the confusing things and helped me. The accepted me. They took me in like one of their own despite my flaws, my age, and my sins. I had become a sister in Christ. 

I credit IF:Equip with bringing the Bible alive and relevant to my life. I am blessed, daily, with the women I spend each morning there with discussing the scriptures and life in general. We lift each other and pray and share our stories. It’s amazing!

I miss it on the weekends. I’ve made so many new friends through that site that I cannot keep track. When I first accepted Jesus, I had one Christian friend, now I have hundreds. A God given gift. And to think I almost didn’t join the site.

Right now I’m in the process of trying to retrieve my posts from the site because they chronicle my life as I came to know Jesus. They are like gold to me and I wish I’d written them in a journal instead of on an online site that can be changed; losing my posts forever.

If you’re a woman, and you haven’t joined IF:Equip yet, please do. You won’t regret it. In fact, for me, it was the best decision I almost never made.

Right now I’m trying to go back and retrieve my posts all the way back to when I started in December 2013. I’m doing this to help me remember what I was learning, feeling, and going through, during my budding relationship with Jesus. Priceless words, comments and advice from other readers. I’d like to use them to add to this blog.

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IF changed my life.

The scenic route.

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Now that I’ve got this blogging thing down, I’m ready to go back to the beginning. Back before I knew anything about Jesus or God or the Bible.

I’m going to go back to when I was living a miserable life. Back when I thought I was in control. The truth, however, was that I was spiraling downward faster than anyone could keep up with. I kept trying this fix, or that fix, for my many problems, but nothing worked because I was looking in all the wrong places.

I know now that the things I was looking for were all of this world. They were sinful and all they did was make me miserable, sad, scared, dishonest, lonely, unhealthy, and probably almost killed me.

Today, I truly believe those decades I spent living like that were for a reason: to bring Glory to God by sharing my redemption story with you here. Hopefully, I can also share the courage and love I gained from developing a relationship with Jesus Christ.

So stay tuned, friends. This is going to be a bumpy ride, but we’re taking the scenic route. There are plenty of miracles to enjoy along the way, and an unbelievable fairy tale ending.

(Hint: The girl gets her Prince!)

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“Tell me about Jesus”

I’d been alive for thirty six years.
Exploring this world, the joy and the fears. The ups and downs, the good and the bad. But when you depend on yourself, that’s all you have.
My family loves me, they did all they could, but what I was missing, was not found in this world.
Then came the day I just couldn’t bear what was missing from life, I’d looked everywhere.
Thinking I was alone, and wouldn’t survive, a call to a friend is what saved my life. “Tell me about Jesus”, I asked, with a cry. “I’ve been thinking, I’d like to give Him a try”.
And with that I realized I wasn’t alone, behold Jesus, my Savior, was there in the room. He’d always been there, He said,
waiting for this day, that I’d notice His presence and ask Him to stay.
I cried and laughted, He was filling my heart. Now Jesus and I won’t ever part.
The difference between living and eternal life, is the written Word, which is truly alive.
I’m not living for me, I never was. Alive without Jesus is only death with a buzz.
He died for my sins and my sorrows alike, and now lives in my heart; that’s eternal life.
And when my body can no longer sustain, I’ll be living in heaven with my Savior, My King.

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My friend, Sarah.

Stepping out in faith.

This is the first Sunday I’m going to church after starting my blog. I’m excited, but I’m mostly scared to talk to people at church about my blog.

On one hand I have this awesome testimony to give that I’ll be writing in future posts. Full of ups and downs, sins and sorrow, and fear and the search for faith. My testimony is full of amazing coincidences that are so clearly God at work in my life. In my story, God turns impossible into possible.

On the other hand I’m scared of being judged because of my past. The church is full of hurting people. They say that hurting people hurt people. I love my church and have good connections to the people there. However, I’m also shy, and don’t participate as much as I could. I pray that my story helps me connect with others and encourages others to share their stories too. By sharing our stories we are bringing glory to the name of God and connecting with one another.

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He loves unconditionally.

For my husband, Mark, who unconditionally supports me in this endeavor, I want to say thank you. I love him so much. Marriage is a covenant, not a contract. Marriage is dreamy and difficult at the same time. But if we keep focusing on God at the head and heart of our marriage, and loving each other unconditionally, as God loves us, we will succeed. Thank you, Mark, for being part of my messy story, for never giving up on me, and supporting me in all I do.

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Surrendering my box of problems.

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One of the first things I noticed after accepting Jesus into my heart was a decrease in my anxiety, which used to be so bad. I’d get panic attacks weekly. But having Jesus to turn to with my problems and knowing He understands because He lived it, has reduced the severity of my anxiety. And that was just the start. As my faith grows, I watch how Jesus uses the pieces of my life for good. I’m able to help others, which is something I’d never thought I could do. I thought I was worthless, unable to be any good to anyone. But letting Jesus in changed all that.

It’s so freeing. Jesus freed me of my old life that was scary and hopeless, and He has given me a new purpose. Imagine having all your problems in a box you carry around daily, it’s heavy and you really want to put it down. Well now I can put my box of problems down, at the foot of the cross, because of Jesus.

I close my eyes and visualize myself taking my box of problems, placing it at the foot of the cross, and accepting the peace that only God can provide. Jesus is my shelter, my purpose, and my friend. He will never leave me.

To think about Jesus sacrificing His life so many years ago for me is almost unimaginable. He is forever in my heart, and my purpose in life is to share His story, and mine, so that it might help someone else open their hearts to Jesus.

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