I have very few memories from childhood. What few I have that are my own (Not stories told to me or remembered through pictures), are negative memories, But God. I am the youngest of five siblings, my oldest brother is ten years older and the closest in age sibling died at birth two years before I was born.
Growing up initially we went to church as a family (I don’t remember this, I just know through stories and pictures) at the large Baptist church in town. My mom taught the 2-year-old class – including me. We participated in all church functions. We were actively involved in anything the church put on – singing, skits, programs. Somewhere along the way, probably when I started school, we rode the church bus as my mom went back to work and worked on Sundays. I have a lot of memories of the church bus rides and learned to serve during those rides, leading praise and worship in transit.
My first real memories were in kindergarten. I remember that my dad always had my oldest sister behind closed doors. I didn’t like it, not because I knew what was happening, but because she had my dad’s attention. It made me jealous, but God was protecting me. One day I came home and my mom sat me on the floor with my siblings and said “your dad is in jail, he molested your sister.” I had no clue what that meant, only that for some time after I spent a lot of time with my aunt and cousin and my dad wasn’t around. When my dad was released from jail he lived with my grandmother for some time and one time hid in the closet when DHS came to visit. I still didn’t understand but God did. I knew He was who we turned to. We went for counseling – well they did. I sat outside a brown door with my other sister, except one time. Otherwise those meetings were followed by root beer floats.
We also spent a lot of time at church, we parked at a small church on Sunday and Wednesday nights and drove to church as a family. Then we would have Ice cream and go to the park. We also had meetings, well my parents did, with the Pastors. So I spent a lot of time in the church, I learned that’s where you turn when you have a problem.
My next clear memories surrounded my childhood best friend. In second and third grade we were inseparable, unless she was sick. I didn’t see her if she was sick, my parents never took me to the hospital. Then one day my mom got the call that she had died. I stood in the hallway, and said “I won’t cry.” And then the tears flowed. I don’t remember my parents comforting me at all. The following day my oldest sister did her best to comfort me. She took me to big church with her, and when the pastor talked about death and I started crying uncontrollably, she took me for ice cream. Neither of my parents took me to the funeral, my aunt did. I didn’t go to the cemetery, it would be thirty years before I did that on my own.
At some point, my dad moved back in to the home. It would be several decades, but when I asked my mom why she stayed, she told me that God told her to forgive Him and stay. I admit that once I understood what he did, forgiveness by my mom was not something that ever crossed my mind as to why she would stay with a man who raped her teenage daughter. Regardless, he came back home and life continued. I have intermittent memories of events going forward, but could not create a timeline of those events.
My family eventually stopped attending church and when I turned twelve I decided I wouldn’t go either. But God’s Word was planted deeply in my soul. The seeds that had been placed over the previous ten years would lay hallow, but would spring up as God tried to pull me back to Him. Even though I didn’t understand then, there was a war going on and at times I could see glimpses of it, even as I walked down the dangerous path.
I started smoking cigarettes shortly after I left church. I got drunk for the first time when I was twelve, thirteen the first time I got a contact high. Five days before my fourteenth birthday, I put myself in a situation that I should never have been. I was raped. It took some time for me to tell anyone. He had threatened me, and knew exactly where I lived as he picked me up and dropped me off there. When I finally told my school counselor, I was told that it was my fault the way I dressed and flirted she said. I was overly friendly, but I had on tight jeans and an over-sized paisley shirt much like everyone else during that time wore. Needless to say I didn’t bother to tell another adult. Instead I turned to my much older male friends, and they beat him pretty badly. I wish I could say that deterred him from raping others, but it didn’t. I met other victims and eventually he ended up charged with manslaughter even though he walked away from the charge for time served.
My life spiraled out of control at that point. Not totally out of control as I made good grades without effort and worked a steady job where my mom was a manager. In junior high, I was drinking daily at school and popping pills, even at school. I was drunk and high most weekends. I eventually developed a bad reputation, and while it was untrue I decided if the rumors would fly I would live up to them. Once I skipped school and got away with it, it became a habit. One year I missed 42 days in an 80 day semester. I passed because I was on the honor roll and had visited the doctor enough for “stomach pains” to get medication. My parents were completely oblivious to what was going on, and I lied so much I lost sight of the truth. Even during those times God would show up in discussions as we would have deep theological debates while drinking and getting high. Even then the Word of God came out, because I had memorized it as a child.
The years following I would lose several friends and family members, suicide, accidents, illnesses. Death became natural, and in a way a fixation. I would close my eyes and see my dead friends. For a few periods I was suicidal, a true cry for help slitting my wrists, overdosing on prescription medications, pills and alcohol. No one seemed to notice, but God kept watch over me.
I met my husband at the end of my 9th grade year. We met through mutual friends. My friends liked that we hooked up because he was the local pot dealer. Twenty-one days after we met, he was arrested. He would spend the next five months in jail and treatment. My mom’s first contact with him was a collect call from Benton County jail.
While he was in jail, I connected with my oldest daughter’s dad. I found out I was pregnant three days after my 16th birthday. Her dad left after I contracted an STD because he was sleeping around. It caused me to go in to premature labor and have to do homebound at school. When my now-husband got out of jail, he was there pursuing me. I have to say that God has shown me so much through my relationship with my husband. Him pursuing me was one of those “But God” moments, because God was doing the same.
There were times at night that demons would come and torment me. I would see demonic creatures, flashes of evil scenes – sacrifices of humans and animals, evil things that I had never seen or known. I can remember lying in bed at night singing Jesus loves me and saying Jesus, Jesus, Jesus over and over again. I knew nothing of spiritual warfare, I knew from scriptures that in the name of Jesus demons must flee.
I straightened up a lot when I found out I was pregnant. I stopped smoking, drinking and doing drugs. I worked hard in school and saved money for my daughter’s needs. I graduated a year early from high school, 5th in my class. I paid for all of my daughters birth and every item that she needed, minus a few gifts from family and friends. After she was born, my life revolved around her. I would at times still go out drinking and smoking pot, but mostly if my daughter couldn’t be there safely, I wouldn’t be there.
When my daughter was a year old, my sister and then brother-in-law started taking my daughter to church. It was a Full Gospel church. Eventually I started attending too, and that is where I was introduced to the baptism of the Holy Spirit. My Sunday School teacher was an amazing teacher and prayer warrior and really helped me learn more about the Holy Spirit. It was during this time that I found forgiveness for the man who raped me and began to intercede for my husband. I also got back in to serving.
Eventually I got married. My husband attended church with me for a while. Then I got pregnant with our first child together. He became verbally abusive. He was a completely different person than the one I knew for the past four years. He worked, he was a good provider so I just tried to ignore as much as possible. I wrote his negative behaviors off as pressure of life kind of responses. But shortly after our son was born, he left for work one day and never returned. For two weeks, I wondered where my husband was as I struggle to provide with no income for a newborn and three-year old daughter. Then out of nowhere he returned again only to disappear once more. I soon learned that he had started using methamphetamine. I sought God for a month for my marriage and finally filed a divorce. God’s Word said that is someone did not provide for their family, they were worse than an unbeliever and that if an unbeliever left a believer was not longer bound to them. The kids and I moved back in with my parents.
Six months later my dad was diagnosed with cancer. It rocked my world, my ex-husband started to come around a little bit more and was trying to be a father to his child and my daughter. I struggled with my father’s illness, being a single parent and providing financially. I was attending church trying to live good but still struggling. I lived one way on Sunday, and another way the rest of the week.
During that time I got kicked out of my parents house for accusing my father of touching my daughter. She was playing in the bathtub one day and touching herself, it wasn’t sexual but given my background I freaked out. I didn’t know that kids do that. I asked her who taught her that. Eventually with much probing and prodding she said “poppa.” I called in a hotline and left to stay with her dad until I confronted my father.
My ex-husband didn’t want his son living with my ex-boyfriend, so he took our son. For about two weeks I was homeless sleeping on the couch of friends. My Sunday school teacher helped me get into a transitional housing program. I set goals for myself to go to college. My ex-husband helped take care of my father in his illness when he wasn’t strung out. We were both dating other people, but he was still the one I turned to for comfort, emotionally and physically. Then I found out I was pregnant with my youngest child.
When my father died the following March, my faith collapsed. As a Baptist people died and went to Heaven. There was no expectation of healing. But in Full Gospel and Assembly of God, I learned that if I had faith, God would heal. I never doubted that my father would be healed. My pastor came and visited my dad, and made sure that he was a Christian. Even though he was on hospice, I knew God would come through. When he died, my faith, my whole world came crashing down. My ex-husband really had to step up because I couldn’t be the parent I needed to be after I had our daughter. I had a break down, ended up being placed on medication for depression. When I finally leveled out my ex-husband and I dated off and on for the next two years. We went to church together, marriage counseling, and a marriage class. We eventually remarried.
For our honeymoon we moved to Missouri, I had never been away from my family, let alone in a place I knew no one. The town we moved to was a college town and had no children’s programs for the summer for children. Needless to say, church dropped out of the picture. We still drank, but after our honeymoon I stopped smoking pot completely. During the next year, I learned about a personal relationship with Christ. I had daily Bible studies, something I had never done before. I taught my children the Bible and read stories with them. I also started hosting an online support group for Christian moms that grew to over 500 women from various denominations.
That summer I came home to my mom and my husband moved us to Kansas City. I remember spending the summer witnessing to two elders from the Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. I was looking for the books that are mentioned in the Bible that are not there, they knocked on the door and I thought they might have them. They told me to read it, the next day I told them it was plagiarism – it basically said Jesus did the same things in America that he did in Jerusalem but during the 40 days he walked on earth after the Resurrection. They came by every day that summer and they would show me their scriptures and I would respond to them with God’s word since we both believed in that book.
When we returned to Kansas City, my kids had gotten used to going to church again, although we had been again in a Baptist church. They wanted to go, so we set out for church. I very much did not want to be there. “Church God” had let me down when my dad died. We pulled in to the first church that had a car pulling in before us that did not say Full Gospel, Baptist, or Assembly of God. I sat there in the service daring God to move me. I was still so angry.
When I got home, I got the phone call that my best friend from childhood had been in an accident. I hadn’t seen her since I left in July. She had also gotten in to meth, I was confused because she had told me that she was quitting and all signs pointed that she had. The meth lab explosion hadn’t killed her. She drove in her car to get help. She died a few days later. Once again, I wasn’t there for my friend. Once again my parents weren’t beside me to grieve. My husband helped the best he could. God once again created a way. My car broke down and I was going to miss the funeral. I went to the bank to try to get help, but God provided a kind stranger who met my need instead.
My husband and I split shifts so that our kids wouldn’t be in daycare. We stopped daycare because a year into a childcare center, I had a hotline called on me because my children had Mongolian spots. They do look like bruises, and were very noticeable. I wasn’t angry about the hotline, just that my kids had been there a year before they made it. In my mind, either they weren’t paying attention or they didn’t care I was beating my child. Neither was okay with me.
When I started work for the state I was in downtown Kansas City. My husband had quit his job, he went into a deep depression and started playing video games all the time. One day I got a call from a neighbor that my five-year old was walking down the road, a very busy four lane road. Apparently he was afraid he would miss school, and his dad was asleep. I made the decision to move back to Arkansas to be by family because I couldn’t count on him to safely care for the kids.
One of our last services in central Missouri, a guest preacher would share a message that has carried me for fifteen years, that our blessing is closer than Satan wants us to think. That day I was slain in the Spirit, and had a vision of my son preaching and my husband walking down the aisle making a commitment to live for Christ.
God has shown me time and time again that I am to be committed to my marriage. Over the next ten years we walked through domestic violence, alcoholism, pornography, two years of unemployment, bankruptcy, a foreclosure on a house and having a vehicle repossessed. I certainly wasn’t perfect either, I was so full of anger and rage. I was judgmental and critical. I didn’t build my family up, I could cut them to shreds with my words. I walked farther down the path towards adultery than I realized. But God.
God has given me the grace to walk it out. God has used ever single event that happened in my past, those I have shared, and those I haven’t, to help others that are going through similar situations. To provide hope. He has given me his Spirit to share the good news with the poor, to heal the brokenhearted, to set the captives free, to comfort those who mourn.
“The Spirit of the Lord God is upon Me,
Because the Lord has anointed Me
To preach good tidings to the poor;
He has sent Me to heal the brokenhearted,
To proclaim liberty to the captives,
And the opening of the prison to those who are bound;
2 To proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord,
And the day of vengeance of our God;
To comfort all who mourn,
3 To console those who mourn in Zion,
To give them beauty for ashes,
The oil of joy for mourning,
The garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness;
That they may be called trees of righteousness,
The planting of the Lord, that He may be glorified.”
4 And they shall rebuild the old ruins,
They shall raise up the former desolations,
And they shall repair the ruined cities,
The desolations of many generations.
5 Strangers shall stand and feed your flocks,
And the sons of the foreigner
Shall be your plowmen and your vine dressers.
6 But you shall be named the priests of the Lord,
They shall call you the servants of our God.
You shall eat the riches of the Gentiles,
And in their glory you shall boast.
7 Instead of your shame you shall have double honor,
And instead of confusion they shall rejoice in their portion.
Therefore in their land they shall possess double;
Everlasting joy shall be theirs.
Ron Carpenter continued that “The anointing destroys the yoke of whatever has happened to us, that is why we are called to take His yoke upon us and learn of Him. We need to let God’s anointing destroy our past and let Him control us. Deliverance is never external, deliverance comes from anointing. We begin to grow in the things of God, and eventually it is so big that the things that used to hold us, can’t hold us anymore. The soul goes out and looks for the same, but the anointing gives us the opposite. Our past can’t get any bigger, but God within us can.”
Despite what happens in our life, we have the choice to say “But God.”