Photo by Briana Rapp
My biological dad was in the Vietnam war when I was born. I found him when I was 21. I had a relationship with him until I was 42, and then he passed away. I am so thankful for the years I had with my dad.
My little brother’s biological father (my stepdad) started sexually, physically and mentally abusing me when I was five years old. He also abused my mother. He was an alcoholic. He later served time in prison for hitting and killing someone while drinking and driving. When he got out, he was homeless and lived several years on the streets, before he died of cancer. My stepdad’s friend also abused me.
With the abuse, I became numb to the things going on in my life. I learned to build walls of protection around myself at a very young age. Things that no child should have to endure or see, I endured and saw. Most abusers are very controlling. My stepdad was no exception. He had to control everything I did. For example, once while I was riding my bike across a bridge near our home, he told me if I ever went across a bridge again, he would kill me.
When I was 12, my best friend and I took a Dial-A-Ride car to a park. We fed the ducks and had a wonderful day. We were going to sell pop bottles to get the money for a Dial-A-Ride car back home. But no one would buy the bottles. We had to walk home. When we came to the bridge, I told my friend that I couldn’t walk over the bridge because, if I got caught, my stepdad would kill me. I told her I would meet her on the other side. But she insisted that she go with me under the bridge. So we walked under the bridge together. We had to swim across the water, and the current swept us away. I got rescued and she did not. My friend drowned. This happened in June.
Beatings from my stepdad were a normal occurrence for my mom and me. My mom, little brother and I had a plan to meet at a certain spot outside of our house when my stepdad began beating us. Whoever could escape, would run to this spot and wait for the others to meet there. In August after my friend died, my stepdad went after my mom. She got out of the house and he went after me. At this point, I was ready for him to kill me. I was done. My little brother was four years old and, and until this point, he had never touched my brother. I had always tried to protect him. For some reason this time my little brother jumped on his back to protect me. He slung my little brother across the room and I remember his head bouncing off the wall. I said, “Run, John, run.” My little brother got out of the house. I told my stepdad to kill me. He didn’t — he did what he needed to do, and then I got loose. That was the first time he touched my brother. I knew it wouldn’t be the last. We went to our babysitter’s house to spend the night. My brother and I stayed at her house for two days. I told my mom I wasn’t going home. I called a family member in Arkansas and got a bus ticket for my brother and me to travel to Arkansas to move in with family. I told my mom she could stay or go with us, but we were leaving. She came with a loaded down pickup truck. We moved to Arkansas and never looked back.
Moving allowed me to escape my abusers, but it was the beginning of my own destruction. My abusers were drug addicts and alcoholics, and I was determined never to go down that road. By the grace of God I didn’t, but the enemy (the devil) continued to pursue me. I was living in spiritual warfare all the time.
“For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. (Ephesians 6:12).
There is a real army of evil out there. We have the resources to defeat the enemy, but we have to know Jesus and have His power in our lives.
I had been sexually active since I was five, so I was sexually active after we moved to Arkansas at a young age with much older men. I just wanted someone, anyone, to love me and want me, even if I had to control and manipulate others to get it. When I was 16, my mom announced that she was getting married again and moving three hours away. I rebelled and moved out. I got married at 17 and had a baby at 18.
I had never heard the Word of God and didn’t know anything about God at this point in my life. But I will say, the whole time that I was going through the horrible abuse in my childhood I knew that there was someone with me. It was only as an adult that I learned that it was the Lord who had been with me.
My husband and I started going to church when I was around 20 and I was baptized at 21. This was a time of spiritual awakening for me. I had some wonderful Christian women in my life who were trying to disciple me, but no one knew anything of my past — not even the man I married. We were married 12 years and had three babies; then our marriage fell apart. My world was turned upside down. I rebelled completely. I became a serious man hater. Desperate for love, I turned to a same sex relationship with my best friend. We moved in together with our children. That relationship lasted six years. The enemy had convinced me that there was nothing I was doing that wasn’t right in the eyes in God.
I fell into a very serious gambling addiction during that six years. One bad decision led me to a whole road of destruction. I did some things I’m not proud of. I could have ended up homeless or dead. I went beyond going to casinos and Vegas to also having bookies. I would bet thousands and thousands of dollars at a time on sports (mainly football). If I lost, I didn’t have the money to pay. Quido was my bookie’s name and his brother was Zito. True story — I’m not making this up. Every weekend I bet thousands of dollars on multiple games, and every Wednesday they showed up at the bar where I was bartending and collected what I owed or paid me what they owed me. I was actually good at it. I was winning so much money I was buying my kids any and everything they wanted. We went on extravagant vacations, doing things I should have never done and really thinking I was somebody! Do you see how the enemy works? I had all the money I could ask for, and I was doing it without a man (because I wanted to show everyone I don’t need a man). In my eyes, I was ‘mom of the year’ because my kids had anything they could ask for.
But, I had no peace; I had no joy. You can be happy but have no Joy. Happiness comes from our flesh, but true Joy comes from the Lord. My oldest son (because he was the one it affected the most) went down a road of drugs and alcohol. Praise God it was short-lived (just a few years) but it happened. This difficult season really brought me closer to God with a deeper prayer life and dependence on the Lord. Several things came out of this. I quit gambling. The other major change was in my relationship.
The lady I was in a relationship with had two children. I had three. She had a grandbaby that we were raising. The Lord just would not leave me alone from the time that baby was born. He let me know that I was not where I was supposed to be. The Holy Spirit just laid this heaviness on me, so I would get back into reading the Bible and start listening to His voice again. When I did, I knew what I needed to do.
I went home one day and said, “This is what the Lord is telling me. I can’t be with you anymore.” I went through a depression because I was giving up the baby, who was by then was two years old and whom I had really bonded with. I never got to see that child again. It was hard, but the whole time the Lord was with me giving me His love, His mercy, His guidance, His assurance, His grace. He was leading me to where He was taking me. All He was asking for was my obedience, just to listen to His voice.
When she left, I couldn’t afford the house. I put the house on the market and prayed that God would help me sell it. God really started showing me His faithfulness. I thought, “Wow, I have done all this stuff and He is still there, still faithful and answering my prayers.”
My brother and his wife invited me to his church and I have been there almost 13 years. I remarried in 2009, and we are serving in the church and walking every day with the Lord. I also do prison ministry. Prior to COVID-19, I went into a women’s prison in Fayetteville, Arkansas, and led a discipleship class once a week. My children are all grown up and doing well. God has restored everything the enemy stole from me.
The Lord is a gentleman, and He allows us to make our own choices. But our freedom to choose does not free us from the consequences of our choices. The Lord wants us whole and healthy, but we will never be whole and healthy until we understand and receive His grace over our lives. I wasted a lot of years — even as a Christian (hear me now) — with no peace or joy and full of bitterness because I couldn’t grasp God’s grace for what I had done and what other people had done to me. I could grasp it for others but not for me. For years I was on a spiritual rollercoaster trying to hold everything together. I couldn’t figure out why things were so dang hard! I kept pleading the Word of God over myself and other people in my life and nothing was changing. I kept giving it to the Lord and taking it back. Giving it to Him and taking it back. I couldn’t trust myself and I sure couldn’t trust anyone else —even God. Through it all I never quit praying, begging God to help me be able to withstand the storms of life without being shaken.
The Lord never gave up on me. The Lord took me on a journey that brought me to a place where I have now fully grasped the Grace of God. Over and over He has lovingly poured His Grace out over me and taught me how to do the same for others. He has taught me:
- Although humans disappoint or disappear in this life, God never will.
- How to shut off all the voices, so I can hear His.
- How to have peace during the storm because He will never leave us or forsake us.
- My walk with Him is never going to look like someone else’s and someone else’s is never going to look like mine.
- He took away allmy fear of being alone and taught me that He is all I need.
There are so many ways to describe God. I have experienced God’s love, mercy, grace, restoration, and kindness. He is all-powerful and never-changing. Never give up on God because He will never give up on you.
“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.Then you will call on me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart. Jeremiah 29:11–13