Ever since an old friend died a few weeks ago, I’ve been praying about writing down my life story. He was someone I had known and traveled with at the end of my wayward years, when the baggage of life was so crushing I felt like a zombie, still walking but completely dead on the inside.
But it’s very, very vulnerable to write down one’s life story, and mine maybe much worse than many.
I’m not actually concerned with you knowing my story, I’m concerned with making people stumble by sharing too much of it. I have been redeemed. I have seen God’s wonder and spectacular love for me in ways that were unimaginable before I experienced them. I have seen God put His healing finger right into my wounds and make them into treasured testimonies of His goodness and grace towards me. I have seen His glory and grace and could never wish it any other way. I guess I shall start from the beginning.
Only a few of you know me from my early years. I was a “good” child. I obeyed my mom and dad all the time. I was honest (to my own detriment). I was a rather easy child to raise. I loved Jesus a lot. I was a zealous little evangelist. I once had a friend tell me “I only prayed that prayer so that you would stop asking me!” I wanted souls for the kingdom. A good aspiration. But looking back my spirituality was all works-based. I was good on the outside and hadn’t grown up enough to realize how ugly my heart actually was.
Around 12 years old was a very transitional time in my life. I got baptized. My grandma died. I felt guilty for being slightly relieved, as we had been care-giving for her for years and I finally got my childhood back. I didn’t talk to my mom about my guilt or emotions. My mom, in an effort to help me avoid the shame and pain of sexual immorality gave me some “laws” to help me avoid it, but failed to have the uncomfortable conversation teaching me the wisdom of sexual purity, which made me feel un-trusted, though I had always been honest and obedient. My mom and I started fighting.
Half way through my Freshman year, I moved in with my dad in Wyoming. Culture shock! The mall was 1.5 hours away. I had moved from a suburb of Sacrament, CA. I moved back over the summer and half way through the Sophmore year, before my mom called my dad and told him he had to take me back.
I started smoking pot, smoking cigarettes and drinking somewhere in there.
I can’t recall when, it must’ve been the summer between Freshman and Sophmore years, I lost my virginity. It wasn’t special at all. It was horrible actually, because looking back, as a happily married woman of 18 years, I realize how much was missed. It set the stage for the next 3 or 4 years of my life, of treating my body like a worthless tool, as though it were my only attraction and had no value at all. I slept with countless people. I don’t even know how many. I lost count at 36. I should’ve gotten a disease. I did actually, but by the unending, ever protecting grace of God, it was Chlamydia, which only requires antibiotics to get rid of.
I can’t believe I didn’t have HIV. I dreamed of getting it. I wanted death so badly. I would dream of dying of a heroin overdose too, because I knew (thank God) that I couldn’t slit my wrists because I really, actually wanted to die, not just get attention (and I didn’t have the courage to put a bullet in my head). So I just dreamed.
I had an abortion. I may have had 2, but one was because I punched myself in the stomach, because I thought I might be pregnant.
I started doing Meth and Cocaine during my Junior year in High School. (Now I’m missing 5 teeth… but thank God Almighty that was all the damage!). I drank as much as I could, usually large quantities of cheap vodka, and slept with people I didn’t like and sometimes didn’t know. Not because I wanted to, but because I was so empty inside and felt like if they wanted me that was their problem, and if they caught some disease, well that’s what they get for using my worthless body. Do you know that it took years of being married to a really loving man, before I stopped feeling like that about sex.
Sexual immorality will mess you up! I mean, seriously, seriously mess you up! I did every kind of drug I could get my hands on (except crack) and still my sexual history was, by FAR, the most violating and damaging thing I ever did to my body.
The summer of 1997, I hit the road. I went to a Rainbow Gathering in Oregon. Hitch-hiked there with my friend, Farmer, who was a very, very dear friend (and still is) because he never tried to sleep with me. I knew he really loved me because of that.
When I left there, it was with 3 other people, Leaf (the friend who just passed) being one of them. I was still dead, but I was starting to feel a little. I danced at that Gathering… for the first time in a whole lot of years. I also remember laughing and smiling.
We spare-changed the money to buy a VW bus in southern CA. We drove it back to OR and found a really cute hitch-hiker on the side of the road. We picked him up. Never dropped him off. And him and I are now more in love than ever before. Actually, he was the greatest means that God used to heal my brokenness.
We started traveling together… with 11 other people and, by now, 2 orange 1973 VW buses. We headed East, making it as far as Boise, ID, until one fateful night, in Boise, we were rear-ended by a drunk driver. Since then our lives have never been the same.
Through the accident, we ended up meeting a very loving couple, named Cynthia and Niel Hegge. They welcomed all (6) of us stinky hippies into their home for sleep and pizza. Me and the hitchhiker talked to them on their porch for 4 hours that night. When the conversation was over we parted ways with them, us to the garage to talk (we were still wide awake from having consumed LSD in the afternoon) and them to bed, because it was well, well into the night by the time we went inside.
I can’t tell you what happened that night. You may not believe me anyways, but in the morning we were new creatures. We had different hearts. We got back on the road a day or two later… only Smiles and I at that point. We began to think differently in ways like, when we got hungry, we’d pray for food and just knew that God, this same God we had both hated, only a short time ago, would feed us promptly. When we were planning our route, we’d pray about where to go (one time, years later, the only instruction we had was “Go West”…. we did and ended up living 1200 feet from the Pacific Ocean for 9 years!).
So we left off hitch-hiking the country, only this time it was with the Great Trail Guide! We had amazing travels. Someday you may read about them in a book called “Travels Unraveled” if we ever get it published. We hitch-hiked for a year, then 5 days before our firstborn son was born, we got blessed with a motorhome. I kid you not, we didn’t have a penny to our names 2 days before we got “her”. We knew, by then, though, that God feeds the lilies of the fields, so why should we worry about our own provision. Besides, we’re taught by Him to ask for daily bread, not weekly, monthly, or yearly bread. We ate every single day, without fail… unless we were fasting. We hardly ever got rained on, which is no small feat considering we were sleeping outside every night. (We did, however, get woken up by sprinklers 2 times in Florida… 2 nights in a row! Florida is my least favorite state, even though it was there also that we slept outside when 7 tornadoes toughed down around us, and we didn’t even get wet! Yeah, it even made National Geographic’s “10 worst storms of the year” list that year!)
We weren’t really reading the Bible very often, but we both had one and knew it was a treasure. We got picked up by just enough Christian hitch-hiking rides, or ended up at random church services just often enough to keep us from spiritual starvation.
After living on the road together for 3 years (first hitching and then in “Miracle” the motorhome), we ended up in Arcata, CA in the back of the parking lot at Sunny Brae Church. We lived there, on the church property, for 5 1/2 months.
We knew that God wanted us to stay in Arcata for awhile. We didn’t know if it was permanent, although we really, really wanted to live in Athens, OH, our favorite town in the Country, which we first found 2 1/2 months after Smiles and I met. All we knew was that our kids needed stability, and we needed to be discipled.
It was during that time in Humboldt County when we really started to grow up, and when our most needed healing began to take place. Our second son was born (in the bathroom of our motorhome) soon after we got to Arcata. We got married. Then we had one more more son.
I still carried a whole lot of baggage from my previous life. I knew, in theory, that God loved me. I was reading the Bible by now. Heck, I had really fallen in-love with it. I believed it. I embraced it. But it didn’t really sink in deep until I had been a Christian for 7 and a half years. I had a bad case of “self-condemnation”. I’d preach to myself Romans 8:1 over and over again. I knew what the Bible said about who I was in Christ, clean, forgiven, holy and blameless. But I would spiral into these bouts of depression. My family was awesome. I was super blessed, but I felt ruined everytime I would do something wrong, or even think that I had done something wrong. And my poor husband was being crushed. His love towards me was simply rejected time and time again, and one can only absorb that hurt for so long.
One day, Smiles came to me in desperation. “THIS ISN’T EVEN ABOUT YOU ANYMORE, SPACE. i NEED YOU TO REPENT. I’M DYING UNDER THE WEIGHT OF THIS!”
I can still see his face, and I see myself, as though watching a movie on a screen, racing frantically to the back bedroom and weeping. “Oh God!” I cried out!!! I pleaded for repentance. And He spoke to me there, face plastered into carpet. He reminded me that “repentance” means “to change one’s mind” and “to turn from sin and towards righteousness”. He convicted me that I’d only been trying to turn from the sin, and not towards the righteousness. I cried out again, remembering that I am called, in Scripture, to have the mind of Christ, and asked Him again “How do I have the mind of Christ?” He told me to read Galatians. So I did… for about 3 days straight, stopping only to feed people.
After 3 days, Smiles was at work and I was sitting again, in front of the woodstove, pouring over that glorious letter that Paul wrote to the Galatian church. And I felt it. I knew the instant it happened, because I honestly felt chains break and fall off, in my soul. When Smiles got home, I beamed and told him that God had delivered me. He responded by saying “We’ll see.” I understood, but I didn’t care if he was doubtful, because I was awakened to something magnificent and I knew I had been healed and freed from over a decade of self-inflicted bondage.
It was at that point that my life changed so dramatically that it was almost like falling in-love with Jesus for the first time, all over again. I had never feared God before, and I mean, when you really understand what that means, it becomes enrapturingly glorious! I had only feared sinning or consequences. Now I didn’t even mind consequences, because I suddenly, truly, genuinely believed Romans 8:28, when it says that He causes ALL, let me repeat, ALL things to work together for good to those who love Him and are called according to His purpose! I now understood that magical thing called “grace” that Christians talk about. It wasn’t a far off concept, it was nearer than my skin. I now truly understood that God had incredible purposes for all my suffering and that He was going to make life more spectacular from having had the pain, than if I had been spared it all. I finally realized that He looks at me as though I am covered in His radiance, perfection, spotlessness, magnificence… His holiness. I cannot ever write this without weeping for joy. For these truths have become to me a deep and abiding breath in my lungs. I could suffer nothing so fearsome as to not know the immense love that God lavishes upon me, day in and day out, even as I sleep.
My God had come to save me!!! He came to be born in cumbersome flesh, and to live a homeless man’s life, after being welcomed to earth as the long-awaited King of Glory by shepherds, angels, and livestock. He died a criminals death. All for me, and for everyone else who comes to Him for life. But all of this was so “pat” before. It was all the right answers that they teach you in Sunday School. But all of the sudden, all of those things were the passionate acts of a ravishing Lover, coming to rescue my soul from it’s own depravity, showering me with all the most holy, pure and perfect, affectionate kisses. Love had been made pure! And I suddenly understood that all of my scars were meant to remind me of His immense love and not my own immense hate or indifference.
He had been holding me while I was in that apartment, when I was putting a needle into my own vein, and when I was defiling my body everywhere I went, in ways that I don’t even want to mention for fear of causing you to imagine things that would harm you to think about. He came to me in the most gruesome places of my pain… and He loved me and wooed me and called me “His”.
I would never change it. I’ve lived a long life for only being 36 years old. Sometimes I feel like a child, and sometimes like an old lady who never wants to remove herself from her rocking chair and her well-worn Bible. But all of my years have been worth living, because had it not all happened, I wouldn’t know Jesus like I do now. And knowing and loving Jesus is the best thing in the World… besides being known and loved by Him!
The End so far.