My Journey so far…

Abandoned
Lonely
Broken
Lost
Hurt
Disengaged
Out of control
Bitter
Sad
Scared

Can anyone relate to these feelings? These were just a few of the emotions that ruled my life before I allowed God to step in and take control.

I grew up fearful and afraid. I was almost molested when I was 9. My mom was sick a lot so I was always afraid of losing her. My dad died before I was born which left me feeling fatherless even though I had family members who did their best at providing positive male roles.
When I was younger, I submersed myself in my mom’s steamy romantic novels, fascinated by the sexual nature of the scenes that they wrote about. She was always so happy that I was an avid reader. I remember that turning into hiding out back in our shed reading smut books in my teenage years.
During high school, every guy that I dated cheated on me. I tried to find the same feel good, mushy type relationships where sparks flew that I read about but each time, I was let down, I was left feeling alone, unworthy, unwanted and unattractive.
I have been overweight for as long as I can remember. The smallest clothes I ever remember buying was size 16. This played havoc with my self-esteem in high school. As I grew older, it just became worse.
I did get married just after high school, I was 19 and I thought I had found my happily ever after but my world was crushed when he cheated on me, we were divorced a few months before our 1st anniversary.
During our marriage, my husband worked nights and I was terrified to be by myself due to the unresolved issues with almost being molested. My cousin ended up moving in with us to keep me company at night. Unfortunately he would leave once my husband was gone to work to go to a bar and I would still be alone. So one night I decided to go with him instead.
We ended up hanging out a lot at an alternate lifestyle bar where there was a male stripper review every week.
This became my haven. My husband was okay with me being there due to the type of bar it was. I became submersed in a world of attention by some really great looking guys. This went on for quite some time. It was something I felt I desperately needed. They helped me come out of my shy, withdrawn shell and made me feel special, and sexy and wanted, even though all they did was flirt heavily. They were there for me when I went through my divorce.
After that, I moved right into another relationship with my ex-husband’s boss. Within a few months, I found out that yet again, I was being cheated on. I ended up moving in with my mom when I was 21. Completely broken, devastated and feeling that only men with no real interest would ever pay attention to me. I didn’t realize the pain was only going to get worse.
January of 1993, shortly after I moved in, my mom passed away. I was a complete mess.

Abandoned
Lonely
Broken
Lost
Hurt
Disengaged
Out of control
Bitter
Sad
Scared

I remember feeling that my world would never be the same. Within a few weeks, I fell right into another relationship with a man that came to my door selling magazines. True story, he showed up and never left. I was pregnant within a few months and we had a beautiful baby girl in December of 1993 whom I named after my mom.
During our relationship I was in college for a bit where I would test out my ability to write erotica just like I used to read in the books I had read. I garnered a lot of attention from that but nothing more than people wanting a good story. Soon after, I was introduced to the internet. I ended up quitting college and both He and I started chatting with people and flirting online. We were able to recognize that this relationship only happened due to my mom passing, his codependency and my never ending need to be wanted by someone so within a year and a half, he and I split, remaining friends for the sake of the baby.
Since I was single, I began to become heavily involved online. I would spend the majority of my time online when my daughter was visiting her father or asleep, even to the point of getting only 3-4 hours of sleep myself. I was starving for affection, searching for the popularity and unconditional love that I so desperately wanted. My writing talents did allow me to feel popular as it didn’t matter how much I weighed, or what I looked like but the unconditional love was always just out of reach.
I went through a few actual relationships from the people I met online, even going so far as sharing my life with a female for four years but I’m sure you can guess how those ended. Yep, they all cheated on me too.
I had a child and no clue how to take care of her or myself. I did the best I could with her but my own well-being was unimportant. When I wasn’t being a mom, I let the internet world take control, I had internet affairs with married men and women, to put it nicely, let’s just say I learned about the lifestyle of being 50 Shades before Christian Grey ever showed up on the scene and allowed that to rule my fantasy life as I let in the darkness of sexual immorality which became my deep dark secret.
Before I go any further, I’d like to let you know that during all of this. I was a believer in Jesus Christ. I knew of Him and longed to follow Him. I had no doubt that in my chaos, He was present. I could see the blessings He was pouring out by giving me a family that took me and my daughter in. He protected me from my stupidity, gave me the opportunity to have the weight loss surgery and most importantly removed relationships from my life even when I was clawing tooth and nail to hang onto them.
He brought people into my life through a beauty business that stood with me, prayed for me and helped grow me.
God was definitely present and calling to me, I was just too caught up in my own pain to fully recognize what He was trying to do.
I hit rock bottom in 2006. I had let my internet life bleed over into my “real” life. I was heavier than I’d ever been, even after having the weight loss surgery. I was stress drinking on the weekends and seeking someone, anyone that would want me. I allowed my friend to talk me into visiting her swingers group. Sadly it was basically the same concept I had role played online minus the leather and handcuffs.
To make a very long and dreadful story short, I woke up the next morning in my friend’s bed with her and a stranger and bruises on my neck from the rough play that I found so fascinating online.

Abandoned
Lonely
Broken
Lost
Hurt
Disengaged
Out of control
Bitter
Sad
Scared

In Galatians Chapter 5 verses 19-21 Paul writes: When you follow the desires of your sinful nature, the results are very clear: sexual immorality, impurity, lustful pleasures, idolatry, sorcery, hostility, quarreling, jealousy, outbursts of anger, selfish ambition, dissension, envy, drunkenness, wild parties, and other sins like these. Let me tell you again, as I have before, that anyone living that sort of life will not inherit the Kingdom of God.

I was terrified. I knew that what I had done was extremely dangerous and could have ended very badly.
I called my dear friend from the beauty business. While I was too ashamed to tell her what was going on, I did ask her to pray for me. I knew without a doubt that I never wanted to wake up to that darkness again.
I continued my online fantasies but promised myself it would never be brought into real life again.
In 2007 I had a health scare. Because of my bad eating habits I was diabetic and not taking care of myself as I should. I was in complete denial. I ended up with a life threatening bout of Diverticulitis. I was hospitalized for two weeks and had two surgeries. I almost didn’t make it.
Rene’, my daughter, was almost 14 years old. She had begun attending Celebrate Recovery because of some friends whose dad worked for the church. She had invited me several times but I declined as any time she was out of the apartment, it left me free to play online.
She found tremendous comfort from the people at CR during my time in the hospital. She would come visit me and tell me how everyone was praying for me. I was touched and knew that when I was well enough, I would have to go say thank you. I also knew that I didn’t need CR. I mean, what did I have to recover from? But because I was so codependent, I would go express my gratitude for their kindness during the fear filled days that my daughter went through.
When I showed up, everyone was so welcoming. I wasn’t able to express my thankfulness for the hope and comfort they gave to Rene’ without tears flowing. I attended CR101 and realized God had put me right where I needed to be. They spoke of having a life that I thought was too far out of my reach but I wanted it badly! The couple leading that night encouraged me to come back and promised me that if I kept coming back and gave this a chance, my life would be changed.
I did keep coming back and to be honest, the first few times in open share, I came out of the room thinking “what is wrong with these ladies?” but eventually I became “one of those people” who wasn’t afraid to be open, honest and transparent with what was going on in my life.

Within a few months, I wrote my testimony and shared it. That was such a healing time in my life. I cried all the way through it as I spoke out the dark secrets that I had hidden away from the world.
I went through a step study, attended leadership trainings and became involved as a small group leader and eventually became part of the CR TEAM.
God was turning my mess into his ministry. I was growing and healing and coming to terms with the part that I played in my upside down, topsy turvey life. I joined the church where CR was held in 2008, both me and my daughter were baptized and I really began working on my relationship with Jesus.
Romans 6:4 states Therefore we have been buried with Him through baptism into death so that as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, so we too might walk in the newness of life.
It was interesting to come to the understanding that while I knew there was a God and that He sent His son to die for my sins, that I didn’t have a personal relationship with Him. If you find yourself in this same situation, I encourage you tonight to make that a priority. There was nothing I could do to fix myself. I had tried to do it all on my own. Marriage, relationships with both males and females, Yo yo diets, weight loss surgery, and my own will. Nothing worked. There was no power in me that could heal the emptiness in my life.
But because of my growing relationship with Jesus, Life was getting better and better. I had worked my program and had let God start the process of renewing my mind and my heart. I came to see my heavenly father as the one who would give me unconditional love. I worked through several step studies.
Each time, another layer of bad habits and pain were stripped away and replaced with better choices and desperately needed healing. Please understand that it took me taking action for the changes to really start happening. I had to step out of my comfort zone and stop living in a wilderness attitude. Do you know what I am talking about? If you’ve read Exodus 32 1-14 you would see that the Israelites did not want to take responsibility for anything. Moses did their praying, he sought God for them, and he even did their repenting when they got themselves in trouble. But I knew that while God was leading me, if I was not willing to understand it was my responsibility to take the first step, I wasn’t going to move forward. I had to come to understand that just because I felt a certain way, that didn’t make it true and if I needed something, then I had to seek out trusted Godly council and ask for it instead of waiting for others to come to me. I had to be the one to motivate myself to get up and go to my meeting, or go to church or meet with likeminded people and share my struggles. It was my responsibility to make sure my circle of influence, or the people I hung around with most, were people I respected and was inspired by and that it was my choice to make sure I was thinking the right thoughts and that my free time was spent doing something that would help me become a better follower of Christ. I won’t lie and say it was an easy process but it was worth it. Not only did I grow in faith with God but I also gained a lot of character and integrity in that process. After a few years, we decided as a group to close the CR at our church. It was a difficult decision but felt it was where we were being led at the time. I continued working on my relationship with God through classes at church and volunteering my time. This is what CR encourages us to do. Live out our recovery in the real world. CR was not created as a stopping place. By all means, attend a CR on a regular basis, but don’t let it end there. Become involved in your church home. And if you don’t have one, I highly encourage you to get one!
I had overcome so much and God was blessing my life. I was still caught up in my online drama but no longer did I let it come anywhere near my real life. I was also still eating through some of the remaining hurts that I had and paying no attention to the damaging effects that the diabetes was having on my body.
Because of God’s blessings, I had been living with a roommate who graciously shared her home with me and Rene. She showered love on the both of us and to this day remains someone close to my heart. While living with her, she was always amazed at my food choices. I was a processed food/microwave queen. It was just easier. It amazes me even now that as much good that God had done in my life, and no matter how many times I laid my food issue down, I would pick it back up.
In January of 2013, I was chatting away online in one of the chat rooms that I had been in for years. I was messaged by a nice man and we started talking. I knew in that moment there was something special about this guy. We shared many emails and chatted online frequently. Eventually we started talking on the phone. I shared my faith with him and was pleasantly surprised to find out he shared the same faith and he played in his worship band at his church in Orlando. We both gave the possibility of our relationship to God.
We met for real in February. I was already head over heels and thankfully so was he. And while I worried that he would be turned away by my size 20 frame, he wasn’t. We continued to give our relationship to the one who knew what the outcome should be.
When something is right, and done according to His will, God blesses it abundantly and He opens doors. In April, Chris was offered the opportunity to move to Jacksonville with his job.
He did. He proposed in June and we were married August 17, 2013. We are getting ready to celebrate our 4 year anniversary. This marriage is everything my first one wasn’t. We’ve made sure to put God first and foremost in everything that we do and I’m continually amazed at the blessing God pours out on our marriage.
Now to be honest, I could end my story right there with my happily ever after but God was not done! So let me back up a moment. Two weeks before the wedding, I started having trouble with my eyes. I went to the eye Dr. and found out that my diabetes had gotten so out of control that the blood vessels began to swell behind my eyes. The Dr. told me that if I didn’t change my eating habits and take care of myself I could go blind.
This thought frightened me terribly! I had a beautiful life to look forward to, with a man that God had given to me. As well as being there for my daughter. I didn’t want to jeopardize any of that! God gave me a reality check that day. Even with as much as I had given Him control over, I had yet to surrender this part of my life to Him fully.
I came to CR that Friday night while all my friends were setting up my bridal shower and picked up a blue chip. Truly ready to lay down my food and health at the foot of the cross! Chris joined me on the journey. He has been my strength and my rock in the flesh.
It hasn’t been easy and the journey is still ongoing. I still struggle with food but today am back on track once again, giving control over to God and learning to manage my emotions without turning to food. Still, I stand before you today completely overwhelmed at how God has changed my life. Please hear me when I say He is the redeemer of all things. He has done it for me and can do it for you! He redeemed everything in my life. I stood in the way of broken marriages and involved myself where I shouldn’t have been but God forgave that sin and gave me a beautiful marriage of my own. I ravaged my health and my body and He is making it into a new creation. I gave into sin and lust and found myself in total darkness and He came and gave me light by the love of Jesus. I was almost blind but He allowed me to see again. He redeemed every broken part of my life and today NOTHING in my life is the same. As Paul writes in 2nd Corinthians 5:17 Therefore if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: the old has gone, the new is here!

Abandoned
Lonely
Broken
Lost
Hurt
Disengaged
Out of control
Bitter
Sad
Scared

I am no longer defined by my past. These words no longer describe my life. I share all of this with you to say that God wants to redeem your life too. It is possible to find hope and peace and happiness when you put God in the center of your life.
If you are new to Celebrate Recovery, let me encourage you like I was encouraged. Keep coming back. Work the program, get into a step study and draw closer to God. You will not believe the difference it will make in your life.
If you’ve been coming to CR for quite some time, keep working your steps. God is not done with me yet and he isn’t done with you either!
Today, there is so much hope in my future. I know that God didn’t redeem my past so that I could stand up here, a happily married woman, with a new grand baby, wearing smaller sized jeans. He has great plans for me and I’ve finally gotten myself out of His way so that He can use me to build His Kingdom. He has renewed my mind and my heart and made me battle ready! Ready to Battle whatever is ahead of me as I continue to strive to live the plan He has set out before me as I purpose to shine the light of Jesus to all. In the end, isn’t that what we are all called to do? Be Ambassadors for Christ? But we can’t do that when we let our hurts, habits and hang-ups keep us from all the goodness of God!
He is calling us out of our past and into His future. Into His plan. We must remain steadfast and keep our eyes fixed on Him. If you remember anything I say tonight, I hope it’s this. Without Christ, full recovery is not possible. We were not created to handle sin on our own. If we could do it ourselves, there would have been no reason for Jesus to go to the cross, but He did that for you and for me. He took on all of our sins so that we could live a life of freedom. Everything that we experience in life is an opportunity to grow stronger in Him, in preparation of the Call He has placed on our life.
If you haven’t given your life to Christ and asked Him to be your Lord and Savior, please don’t wait another moment. Don’t walk out of these doors tonight without turning it all over to Him. I promise your life will never be the same. And if you are a believer, then I encourage you to deepen your relationship with Him. Spend even more time with Him and let Him renew your mind and your heart as He continues to lead and guide you through this journey.
I want to close with a verse that I love. Psalm 40 2-3
2 He lifted me out of the slimy pit, out of the mud and mire; he set my feet on a rock and gave me a firm place to stand.
3 He put a new song in my mouth, a hymn of praise to our God. Many will see and fear the LORD and put their trust in him.
This verse is so precious to me because it’s exactly what He did, He lifted me out of all that past junk, He gave me the love for His Word which is the firm place to stand and He put a NEW SONG in my mouth – I refuse to sing songs of my past. That is NOT who I am anymore. I have a new song of Praise because Jesus Christ lives on the throne of my heart. I will no longer live in defeat, but glorify my Lord with everything I have in me. There is not one word, thought, or deed that I want to allow in my life that isn’t pleasing to the Lord and while I am so far from this goal, I am so intensely purposeful in my attempt.
So as I close tonight, I just have to ask? What song are you choosing to sing? Hmm? Is it one of defeat? Or victory?
I’m praying for each and every one of you, that you choose victory!

Thank you for letting me share!

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