I was born a Baptist preacher's daughter. I grew up in a very conservative, strict religious home with a list of rules I was expected to follow with no question or argument. These rules were things like no "mixed" swimming (boys and girls swimming together), and no going to movies at the theater. Girls could only wear dresses (not pants or jeans); and we could not wear shirts with writing on them because it made boys look in places where they shouldn't look. These are just a few of the rules, but I am sure you get the picture. I was told these rules were meant to protect me and to make God pleased with me. However, there was no rule that could protect me from my father.
At the age of 11, my father began to molest me in our home when my mom would go out of town to visit her parents. He warned me that if I told her, or anyone else for that matter, that it would break up my family, and we wouldn't be together anymore. So, I kept this secret hidden deep within my heart where it began to take root and turn into bitterness, anger and rebellion. At the age of 14, our family broke up anyway, because my parents ended up getting a divorce. They had become good friends with a couple in our church (apparently very good friends) and decided to swap marriage partners with them. So my dad married the woman, and my mom married the man and life became even more confusing for me. You see, through this entire time of being sexually abused by my father and my parents switching partners with another couple, I was still expected to go by these strict rules that had been put in place to "protect" me. I didn't understand why I wasn't allowed to wear pants or go to the movies, but my parents seemed to be allowed to do anything they wanted with no consequences. The only ones that were hurting here were the kids caught in the middle.
One night, after a heated argument with my soon-to-be stepmother, my dad came home to find us in quite a battle. To my surprise, right in front of me, she gave my dad an ultimatum and told him he had to choose between her and me. Well, now I could see the light at the end of the tunnel because this was surely her ticket home. There was no contest between his love for his firstborn and some woman he had just met at our church a few years earlier. The next day at school, the cheerleaders were having a bake sale. I was stirring the nacho cheese when I saw my dad walking down the hallway. I was so excited that he had come to apologize to me and tell me that he had sent her away, so I ran up and gave him a big hug. However, he just stood there, opened his jacket, handed me a plane ticket and said "You are going back to live with your mother, and you are leaving tonight." At that moment, my life changed forever. That rejection would follow me for decades.
Two years after going to live with my mother, at the age of 16, my stepfather began to molest me as well. It wasn't long before my self esteem was down to nothing and I was looking for anyone to love me at any cost. I became promiscuous and allowed guys to treat me any way they pleased because I was so desperate for real love and acceptance. When I was 18, I got involved in the strip club industry. Most of the girls I danced with were addicted to alcohol or drugs, but my addiction was quite different. You see, I had heard many sermons on those things, so I never tried alcohol or drugs while I was dancing. I was addicted to the way I felt while I was on stage. You see, these men could only look at me; they couldn't touch me without serious consequences from the bouncers I worked with. So when I danced, I felt safe and in control. This was a feeling I hadn't felt in my own home since the age of 11. I never knew a father who would warn the boy who picked me up for my first date of what would happen if he touched me in any appropriate way. But the one I needed to protect me was the one hurting me the most. At least on stage, I knew no one could get to me. It was better than being at home. This addiction is what kept me there for almost two years. Then one day, God decided to get my attention in a mighty way.
While I was getting ready to dance one night, I suddenly had a horrible pain in my stomach. The pain got worse for over 20 minutes. I found myself praying and asking God to take the pain away...........but He didn't. The pain got so bad that I really thought I could die, so I began to pray that God would just take my life quickly..........but He didn't. After several more minutes of excruciating pain, I finally did the only other thing I knew to do. I made a deal with God. I told Him that if He would take away my pain, then I would never dance again........within 60 seconds the pain was completely gone!
My dad did a lot of things to hurt me in my life, but he also taught me a lot about the Bible. I knew that if I made a vow to God, then I had no choice but to keep it. So I never danced again! Glory to God! Today, I go into strip clubs and minister to the girls there who always ask the question, "How did you get out?" This opens up a door for me to share the wonderful news of God's grace and mercy with them. I love how God includes stories in the Bible of women like Rahab, a prostitute, NOT a former prostitute, but a current prostitute that saves her whole family by risking her life to hide the spies simply because of her faith in God. This faith was notable because not only is she the only woman mentioned by name in the faith chapter of the Bible, Hebrews 11, but she was also grafted in to the lineage of Jesus Christ. I want to live a life of great faith in God that allows me to rise above all fears and insecurities so that I may continue to testify of the powerful change and work He has done in my life.
Everywhere I go that God allows me to share my testimony, there is at least one girl who confides in me that she has been through the same thing or something similar. It is difficult for her to hear me say that forgiveness is the first step to true healing, but it is the absolute truth and the only way to eliminate the bitterness and resentment that we tend to hold on to when we have been hurt so deeply. I am so thankful that God has chosen me to be used in such a way where I can share His everlasting love, forgiveness and grace to those He allows me to minister to. If your story resembles mine in any way...if you have experienced rejection, abandonment or abuse of any kind, I pray that you will reach out and ask for help today. You are NOT alone! God is standing with His arms wide open waiting for you to take that first step of faith in believing that He really wants to heal you. I don't have all the answers but I certainly know the One who does. He knows exactly what you need and He's waiting to meet your need if you will only reach out to Him for help.
I pray that you find the peace, acceptance and unconditional love that I've found, which only comes through an intimate relationship with Jesus Christ. He has a purpose for everything He allows or brings into our lives, and He can heal your hurt as He has mine, and use it to bless others. May your life be blessed and full of peace, and may you walk in the purposes for which you were created.