For years my mother’s testimony was only a click away on my computer and yet for years I refused to even glance at it for fear of realizing that it was a very large part of mine. I was born into this world to an unwed 16 year old preacher’s daughter. This of course made me an illegitimate preacher’s granddaughter, at least in the eyes of the world at that time. My father was not able to handle the consequences of the decision he had made and was therefore not a part of my life. My Mamaw and Papaw took care of me most of the time while my mom continued to be a teen. My mom was a hurt person. She had been hurt by her father, hurt by my father, and hurt by the people who claimed to love the Holy Father. She found acceptance with a group of women who promised they would love her. When my mother was nineteen, and I was two, she became caught up in the lesbian lifestyle. She became serious with a woman for several years, and when I was five years old my mother took me on full time, out of my grandparents care and ultimately out of church. She decided that she and her girlfriend would raise me in the new world she had made for herself and eventually moved me to Florida. My Papaw was, to say the least, not happy about this choice. He loved me dearly though and made sure to be as active in my life as much as possible over the years. He made it known that this was not the way God intended for her to live, but he would love us through it anyway. He taught me Bible stories and in my time spent with him we would listen to Billy Graham and The Gaither Family on his eight track player in his oversized Oldsmobile. He was not a perfect man, but I love my Papaw because he showed me Jesus. He is a prayer warrior, and I truly believe he prayed for my future every day.
I would spend summers at my Great Grandma’s home in North Carolina, and she would send me to vacation bible school. I loved it, and just could never get enough of learning about the Bible. It was normal there, and I was normal there. I was accepted, and this is where I accepted Jesus into my life as a child. My mother and her girlfriend raised me for the next 5 years. Over the years we moved from one place to the next forcing me to meet new people and in turn I became very talkative! By the time I reached the ninth grade I had attended eleven different schools. My environment was, let’s just say, very dysfunctional! I was a happy kid though and my mother’s girlfriend was a wonderful person. She cared for me just like I was hers. She taught me how to do things, and encouraged me to be a good person. She loved animals and would always let me bring home the shaggy dog or cat (or duck for that matter)! I loved her and still do. As an adult I realize she has been hurt, and I understand her pain. It burdens my heart, and I pray every day she will one day allow God to heal that for her! As a child, I always knew in my heart that something was different about my life. I was not like other kids. I was always invited to others homes but rarely had friends to mine. If I did have friends over it was only a select few whose families apparently accepted my “parents” lifestyle. I was confused about what I knew to be true and what we lived at home. I know now that around the time I was ten my mother was praying for a way out of the relationship she had with her partner. She prayed that God would take away the love she felt for this woman. God heard her and knew her heart.
My mom felt that it was crucial for me to be back in church so one Sunday we visited Indian Rocks First Baptist Church in Florida. It was a huge church and a bit overwhelming at first, but it reminded me of that feeling I had years before at my grandmother’s church. I was in a comforting place with people who loved God like I did. My mother felt a welcoming instantly in the very first service we attended; it was like coming HOME. My mom says that in that first service, through her tears, God answered her prayer for a way out. In that moment she surrendered and her love for Jesus overshadowed any kind of love she had for her partner. She left her partner of eight years in just a few days following our visit to Indian Rocks.
After my other mother left, times were hard for many years following “the divorce.” That is what I call it because it really was a divorce only much more confusing. We were now a single income household and faced new obstacles. I remember a week where mom was struggling to put any food on the TV trays! We had nothing, and I just knew that my church would understand and help us. I went to my youth pastor and told him that we had eaten blueberry muffins for dinner the night before. I am so thankful for his reassurance that everything was going to be okay. He showed me God’s love the next day when people from our church showed up with bags of groceries to fill our cabinets. I will forever remember a church that accepted and just loved on my mom and me. I saw God’s love for me that day, through an act of kindness. It directly affected me and still brings me to tears today. I rededicated my heart to the Lord on a youth retreat not long after that.
We eventually ended up back in North Carolina where my grandfather could help mom pick up the pieces and start over. She was pregnant again and unwed again. I was beginning the ever so difficult journey of becoming a teen, and I insisted upon being normal. I went to extremes to make sure I was IN style, IN touch and with the IN crowd. I tried out for cheerleading in the eighth grade and that was my IN. I loved it! It was structured, positive and gave me extended time away from home. Mainly, I loved it because I was good at it, and it made me feel good about myself. We were struggling and living in a very small apartment, but I hid that side of my life from people. My mom came to me one day and said that we were going to get a home but that we were going to have to stay at the local homeless shelter for a week or so. I was mortified not only was this unreasonable but this would ruin everything I had worked so hard to build. She told me that Mamaw had offered to let me stay with her so I would not have to go to the shelter and I accepted. For whatever reason, I changed my mind and did not want to leave my mom and baby brother so I went to the shelter too. I have to stop here and just say that as I type this, the feeling I felt as we checked in the first day still stabs my heart. I was so scared and my mother seemed so broken. We carried our things to the women’s side of the building and made our bunks up…. It was so surreal it almost feels like it never really happened, but I know it did. It will forever make up one of the biggest parts of me.
I have made many of my own mistakes as an adult that have caused me heartache. I had chosen not to believe the truth. The truth about what God says is real for me…His love! I did not want to believe it. I fought it hard. So I have told you a little about where I have been, now let me explain how God has used this story, my life, to begin to show His glory. And Let me emphasize BEGIN TO because He is by no means finished!
I am finally realizing what he has had waiting for me. A few years ago I made the decision to give up my way and go God’s way. It has been a long process, and He is forever patient with me as I tackle each stronghold. He has shown me deliverance my entire life and continues to unfold deliverance for me every day. He has overcome my past, my addictions, my denial and my way and shown me a glimpse of what it is like His way! I am still so far from His face, but I keep the idea that as I grow closer to what he has for me I can feel it. I am warmed by His grace and peace. I am made new by His victory over who I once was.
The unjust shame I felt as a 10 year old who did not want anyone to know she had two mommies is still very familiar as an adult who does not want her Christian friends to know that her past was so full of confusion. How does that follow you for so long? The simple answer is that for years I have just pretended that was not my life, almost as if it never really happened to me. I refused to deal with it and in the process refused to allow Jesus to heal me from it! Only in allowing Him glory through your story can he make you well! My favorite phrase comes from Beth Moore–”We are much neater people healed than we would have ever been well.”
God has used my mother’s disfigured past to help so many people. She is now leading a ministry to reach people who have been down the road she traveled. She is a part of Truth Ministry with her branch office in Western North Carolina. Truth Ministry counsels people struggling with homosexuality, or families who have loved ones dealing with it. She has told her story and shared God’s mercifulness all over the United States with Truth Ministry and Exodus International, at church services and other events. She has been to Washington to lobby our government to make Biblical decisions regarding homosexual marriage. I am so proud of how she allows God to guide her life now. There is something so powerful in knowing that all of the hurt that we once experienced, He has used to heal and restore hearts! Many years ago I may have been seen as an illegitimate preacher’s granddaughter, but God saw me differently! He knew exactly the task he had for me!
My honest praise: Psalm 139:15
“For you formed my inward parts; you knitted me together in my mother’s womb, I praise you for I am fearfully and wonderfully made, Wonderful are your works; my soul knows it very well. My frame was not hidden from you, when I was being made in secret, intricately woven in the depths of the earth. Your eyes saw my unformed substance; in your book were written, every one of them, the days that were formed for me, when as yet there were none.”
Being humbled daily I realized I had to come face to face with my past. I truly believe that if you can’t see where you have been then you will never see just how far Jesus has carried you!