Friday, November 24, 2017

Celebrate Recovery

Hi, my name is Allison. Thank you for allowing me to share my story with you.

I grew up with an absent father. He lived in our home, but wasn't present. He was fighting his own demons & had very little interaction with his children. My young mind didn't understand & I saw this as rejection.

To make matters worse, my paternal grandmother fed into that feeling of rejection by "reminding" me that I was a disappointment to my father. He wanted a boy. I was born a girl. Even worse, I was the eldest of 3 girls.

I wanted to be loved, cherished by my father, but I wasn't. So I looked elsewhere.

7th or 8th grade was the 1st time I seriously considered killing myself. I had a plan and was ready to do it.

Then the phone rang & it was my best friend. She was inviting me to a  weekend youth retreat with her church.

I went.

That was when I was introduced to the miracle-working Jesus. I learned about Him raising Lazarus from the dead (John 11:38-77).

Wait? What?

I grew up going to church. I had all of the perfect attendance ribbons. I could tell you all about Moses, Abraham, Isaac, Jonah. Jesus was about Christmas & Easter. But I had never heard that story. I wanted more. I began attending church & youth group on a weekly basis. Making friends & learning about Jesus. I found a place where I belonged.

But then life took a turn.

From the ages of 14 to 20, I was sexually assaulted 4 different times by 5 different men. Each incident damaged my self-worth. Killing the young girl that I was. I truly believed I was garbage; simply trash. This spilled over into my every day life. I allowed men to treat me accordingly.

One of the most damaging assaults occurred from the ages of 14 to 16 by my youth pastor.

He was 10 years older than me. Just returned from college. Very charismatic. Under his leadership, our youth group went from 8 people to over 80. Teens from all over the county joined. He treated us as his equals. He made being a Christian fun. Roller skating, youth conferences, concerts, amusement parks. He introduced us to contemporary worship music.

The size of this group gave him access of more than 1 victim. I was 1 of 15 victims. Yet I was the only one who came forward and reported the abuse.

This resulted in me being asked to leave the church. None of his others victims were willing to come forward at that time. I was alone.

I was abandoned by my earthly father.

I was abandoned by my church family.

Clearly, I was abandoned by God.

The next 4 years saw me walk away from God. I wanted NOTHING to do with him. And I certainly lived my life that way.

I once vowed to remain a virgin until marriage. That didn't last very long.

By 17, I found myself in an abusive relationship.
By 18, I was drinking and no longer a virgin.

From there I bounced between boyfriends Though always returning to the one I gave my virginity to. We would date, he would break up with me. I would then start dating someone else. He would then want me back.

This went on for 3 years.

At 19, I was raped in my parents' home by an ex-boyfriend. My home was no longer safe. No longer my sanctuary.

A year later, at the age of 20, I was raped again. This time by my boyfriend and his best friend. All the while his mother & brother were in the next room. Several days later, they called to see if I wanted to "have fun again".

At this point, I was broken. My self-worth was shattered. I became a "booty call" for another ex. He treated me well. He deserved sex.

In January 1993, I was feeling lonely & depressed. I was looking through some old pictures and came across one in particular from when I was 15. It was a picture of me & the very 1st guy I ever dated. He was my very 1st kiss.

Something stirred inside. I was going to call him. I knew we were supposed to be together.

We hadn't spoken in 3 years. So I sent up a quick prayer (force of habit).

"Dear God, if I ever have a 2nd chance with him, I promise to do whatever it takes to make it work."

I never called. I chickened out.

Three days later, my phone rang. It was HIM!!! He felt lead to call me. We went out the next night.

Earlier this month, we celebrated our 20th wedding anniversary.

It hasn't been easy. He had to deal with a VERY broken woman with so many issues.

God answering that "silly" prayer back in 1993 was the beginning of Him drawing me back to Him.

Don't get me wrong. I know God never left me though I ran as far & as fast as I could.

Looking back, I know that His heart was breaking each time I was violated. I can see the times He intervened in my life, sending someone to intersect MY plans.

Through the relationship with my husband, I began to seek God a little more. Over time, I was able to forgive. My father & I were able to repair our relationship. He redeemed my father to the point where we were finally able to have the father/daughter relationship I had wanted as a child.

Eventually, I was able to forgive my assailants, going so far as to writing a letter to my youth pastor and extending that forgiveness.

By giving that forgiveness, I became free. I became a survivor. No longer a victim.

Psalm 147:3 is the verse God has given me:
He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds.

Imagine the condition of my heart back in 1993. Broken. Shattered.

God answering that prayer was the 1st stitch in mending my heart. That began my healing.

Eventually, I forgave myself.

I have many regrets. Ones that I will never be able to reverse. Yet God is using my past and my brokenness to help others. By sharing my story, God is building something beautiful out of ashes as promised in Isaiah 61:3.

I no longer feel shame about my past. I know that I am worth loving, by my husband and especially by my Heavenly Father. He sent His Son for ME!

I identify with various women of the Bible. No, not Sarah, Esther or Mary. More like Rahab (Joshua 2), the Samaritan woman at the well (John 4), and the adulterous woman who was about to be stoned (John 8).

Why these women?

Because they were deemed the lowest of the low by their societies. Yet God used each one of them to tell His story of unending love for us.

He is using me in that same story. And He can & will use you.

I will never forget what I have been through. I battle depression & anxiety on a daily basis. I have to constantly remind myself that I am not defined by my past.

He has (and still is) redeeming me. He has a call on my life: to use my story to help others.

Today is a step in that plan. By sharing with you, I am shining a light on the darkness the enemy tries to use to keep me down.

He has no power over me. I belong to the MOST HIGH GOD!

Psalm 107:1 & 2
Give thanks to the Lord for He is good; His love endures forever.
Let the redeemed of the Lord tell their story -- those He redeemed from the hand of the foe....