I grew up in a house with an alcoholic father. I learned when I was older that it is very common for children of alcoholics to try to become as invisible as possible, which I did for many years. He was also abusive, and for one reason or another so was my mother. My father hit and my mother would lock us out of the house when we misbehaved, sometimes all night. I remember I was about 5 the first time this happened. I grew (literally) into being an overweight overachiever. My sisters who were 5 and 8 years older than I was were the bright spots in my life until they started using drugs and drinking. In my young mind they had betrayed me as my parents had because they had failed to keep me safe.
At the age of 9 I figured I needed to protect myself. I told my father I would call the police and asked to be put in a foster home if he ever hit me. He became angry but I ran out of the house screaming ‘Don’t hit me, daddy, don’t hit me!’ I did this to let him know I would not keep the family secret, a secret anymore. He never tried to hit me again, and to my surprise, my mother never locked me out of the house after that either.
During these painful years, Jesus was my ‘invisible friend’. My sister had given me a book of Bible stories, and Jesus always looked so kind. I talked to Jesus constantly and perhaps because of my friendship with Him, I called the priest of our church (I was brought up Catholic) and told him I needed someone to talk to. I ended up not going to an appointment I made with him and, to my dismay, he called my parents and told them. I lied and told them I was upset about my weight. I decided then that I couldn’t trust anyone if a priest would betray me. I was in a constant state of depression.
At age 12, what I thought was the final blow came: my sister was shot drug dealing – shot in the neck, and paralyzed from the neck down. I thought Jesus, the only One I trusted, didn’t care about me, either, since he let this happen to my sister. She was alive, but on a respirator, and unable to speak. I visited her in intensive care and learned to read lips while she learned to tap messages with a finger that gained some movement. I found out much later that two wonderful, beautiful, older women from a Baptist church visited her 3 times per week and led her to Christ in the hospital. From her bed, she witnessed to me constantly, and I promised her I would do everything she asked if she would get well. Almost exactly one year later she died the night before she was going into surgery for an artificial heart. I was numb for a long time. I couldn’t believe she was gone. I wasn’t mad anymore, I was indifferent. I had shut down.
We moved to a nicer neighborhood when I was 13, but we took our problems with us, and, by the time I was 14, I decided to commit suicide. My life, in my eyes, was useless. I had only one friend at my new school who had no idea how to help me. I would sneak out of the house at night and walk in the woods, trying to find some peace and freedom. One night when I came back, I saw my dad’s heart medication on the kitchen counter. I picked it up and my hand started to shake, I knew I had the answer in my hand. I stared at the bottle for a long time, and set it back down. I couldn’t do it. I went to my bedroom and cried out silently to God. I wasn’t relieved because I thought my last hope was gone.
This is how I started high school: empty and afraid. This is how Jesus found me. I was ready to do anything. One day on campus a senior named Jon asked me to attend a Christian Bible Club. I was surprised at how friendly everyone was, and how happy they were. Happy Christians? They invited me to their church, bought me a Bible, and actually said ‘Hi’ to me at school! That may not seem like much, but I felt like I was the most unpopular girl in my school. I felt like people might get ‘branded’ by being seen with me. I was the constant demonstration of unconditional love of the people in the club that won me over. One night, Jon called me on the phone, because he had been praying for me. He told me that God told him I had been having headaches, and to pray for me. I almost dropped the phone. Even my best (and only) friend didn’t know about my bad headaches! Jon talked to me about accepting Jesus as my personal Savior, and, that night, on Sept 29, 1976, Jesus made me a new person. He truly made ‘old things pass away and all things new’ (a quote from the Bible). The day after, a girl named Susan came up, and hugged me, and told me that all the angels in heaven rejoiced when I gave my life to him. Wow!
The road since then has been wonderful, and sometimes wonderfully hard (but still wonderful). It has sometimes been filled with huge mistakes, and outright sin, and bad decisions. But God is faithful. Faithful to get me back on track. Faithful to remind me of His love for me, and my own love for Him. Faithful to show me the path I have walked and the glorious life I now live. This road has lead me to Bible College, youth ministry, the field of telecommunications, and a lifetime of serving Jesus. God has removed all traces of what Satan tried to do, and has transformed me into a child of The King. My other sister is also born-again, and my parents have not, as of this date, accepted Him. I have forgiven and love them both, and look forward to the day when they will know Him as I do. Because now, with Jesus, I can now look at the past with gratefulness, the present with thankfulness, and the future with hope. My biggest hope is to take as many people with me when I meet Jesus and hear Him say: ‘Well done good and faithful servant. Enter into the joy of the Lord.’