My father was an alcoholic. We lived in a home that was supposedly a Christian home. We went to church all the time and we always acted like we were the perfect Christian family. My father was very abusive, mostly toward my mother but also to myself and my two brothers. He was mostly abusive to my mother meaning; he mostly hit her. He would strip her clothes off of her, stand there and talk about her like she was a terrible person. He used words that when we were five, six, and seven years old, we didn’t understand the curse words he would use. He would curse us. He would come in the middle of the night and drag us out of bed. We would pretend to be asleep hoping that he wouldn’t. He would turn on the light, throw back the covers, grab us up by our pajamas and drag us out into the living room. He would start accusing us of things. He would accuse me. One of my earliest memories (I think I was eight) of being a whore, of being no good and worthless. When he was talking about being a whore, I don’t think I even knew about sex then. I didn’t know what a whore was, but I knew that the way he said it, it wasn’t good.
I had a very bad self-image. When I got older that led to my being very promiscuous. I did whatever I could to make myself feel better to have attention. There was a lot of men, a lot of boys, really. I started drinking and using drugs, which is something I swore I would never do because I hated it. It was the source of all our family problems at my home but I did it anyway. I became pregnant before I was married, and had a son. The man that I married never loved me and never intended to be a father to my son. That busted up [divorce]. So, there I had two men, (the most important men in my life)had totally rejected me; my father and my husband. That did even more to destroy my self-image.
I ended up going to nursing school. I thought, “People like nurses. They have value in this world. If I can take care of people then people will like me.” I did that and if I was going to be your nurse, taking care of you, I was going to be the best nurse that ever took care of you.
I had such a hole in my heart where my ex-husband had left me and left my son. When he came back and he looked like fun and all that kind of stuff. The dream that I had always had of us being a family, of my son having two parents and things like that. It looked as if it might come true. That’s when I began smoking crack cocaine. It quickly becomes addictive because, as I said, who I am and what I wanted to be, the shame was just tremendous and horrific. It just weighed on me. So I couldn’t stand to not be high. After I had spent all of the money in my savings account and all of my paycheck then you do what you can. If someone wanted to trade sex for drugs, I did it. If somebody wanted me to trade food stamps or go steal something to trade for drugs, I did it. The more I did it the more I had to do it. I just couldn’t stand to live with myself. I did all of those things. I prostituted myself. I stole from my family. I stole from my son. I ended up eventually in jail for stealing from my family. That’s when things kinda turned around.
One day, when I was in court, the Assistant District Attorney told me about a place called Teen Challenge. I went into the Teen Challenge program in Philadelphia, PA. I’m from a small town of Etowah, Tennessee and when I went to Philadelphia I thought, “God is not in here! He has drug me up here in the ghetto to leave me, and I’ll never be able to go home again.” I went on the back porch, and I screamed at God. I said; “You brought me up here! You got me stuck me up here where I don’t have anything or anybody. You’ve got to do something.” That’s the first time I had talked to God that way. Not ‘Oh, Holy Father’ and all of that kind of stuff. That was the first time I had really been real. I think the thing that changed is I was real and open and honest with God.
I trusted Him enough to talk to Him straight. After that, it’s like the Word of God opened up to me. I remember Romans 8:1-2 “There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.” That is when I started to trust that He loved me and wanted the best for me. He loved me when I was in the crack house, he loved me when I was prostituting myself, that actually he had never left me. That all those times when I was afraid and hiding from my father, that He was there with me and He protected me. He showed me something else; that my life wasn’t over.
The ministry that I worked for, Women at the Well, sent me to Israel. It wasn’t a mission trip. It was purely pleasure. Of course, Israel is beautiful and it’s spectacular. I remember the day we went to Jerusalem. Jerusalem is a beautiful city. I remember standing on a hill looking over the old city of behind a wall with the Muslim dome there and all that kind of stuff. God spoke to me in a way that I understood what He was saying. I am His daughter. That I am his favorite child. He had invited me and brought me to that Holy City, Jerusalem. I always worried so much about being good enough. It’s just not about that. There’s no way I could be good enough for that. The main thing He showed me was that there is no way that I can keep myself from being that. He chose it. God, He is the boss, and that’s just who I am. This put me on a path to accepting that I am a daughter of God.