My Story

God is always there

In 2008 I did a Beth Moore study called “Believing God.” That study changed my relationship with God in many awesome ways that I don’t have room to list here. But one thing that came to mind, when the Lord asked me where did He and I start, is a section in the book called “Believing God Has Been There All Along.” I was able to really heal in so many ways, especially unresolved anger towards God, through that specific chapter. Beth and I had a lot in common in that there were many things about my life that I would rather not remember, that caused me inexplicable pain and that made me angry at God for many years.

And just as Beth taught in the study, if you internalize such experiences they will only stay submerged for so long. Trauma will surface in all sorts of ways- anger, physical illness, relationship issues, the list goes on. So the study taught us to allow the Holy Spirit to support us as we go back and look at those experiences through a different lens. (Psalms 77:11-12) We can find treasure in the midst of mud. Do you know how many rocks have to be turned before they find gold?

I do not want to in any way suggest that this process is easy or quick- in fact I am still going through it- but it is worth it to look back and realize that our Savior was watching over us long before we realized it. I hope my story encourages you to go back and review the testimonies of your own life- it will strengthen your faith walk immensely.

From the beginning

I was born in 1979 to parents who had issues. Join the club, right? My dad was mentally ill and un-medicated, or I should say self medicated. My mom did not have the emotional capacity to stand up to him. So the early years of my life were an unpredictable roller coaster of experiences I was too little to control.

When my father was in an overly religious phase we wore skirts to our knees, hair to my waist and grew our own food. When he was not in a religious phase he was doing drugs and acting psychotic. He took the concept of helping people to the extreme (as he did everything else) so instead of giving money to the homeless on his way to work in DC he would bring them home to live with us. There were dangerous and scary people in and out of my home on a regular basis. Those people were not always kind to me and my little brothers and we were subjected to sexual abuse by more than one of the people. This went on until I was nine years old and we ended up moving to West Virginia because one of the men that lived with us at the time tried to kill my mother and kidnap my brothers and I.

God was there

That takes me to believing and knowing that God has been there all along. One of the ways I know this is that my mom and dad were not the only two people in the room when I was born. My paternal grandfather was also there and my grandmother was on her way. Poppop says I looked right into his eyes and I have been his little girl ever since. God knew that my parents wouldn’t have the ability to parent me adequately and so he sent me the two people that love me most in this world- my Mommom and Poppop. They have proved through many seasons of my life to be the love of God in physical form!

God was also in my house.

The human mind is an awesome complex creation that allowed me to escape feeling physical pain from things done to me as a child. I had a special place in my head where I could just feel like I was an observer rather than a participant. Only God can give a gift like that. In addition, the night that Ed tried to kill my mom, my dad wasn’t home and we were alone in the house with this man. But I had left something at school that day- I think I was in the third grade- and since I went to a small private school my teacher knew where we lived. When she didn’t get an answer on the telephone she came over. Her ringing our doorbell saved our lives and I know that was God.

We moved to West Virginia not long after that. When I was around 11, a young kid off the streets moved in with us. My parents said his parents didn’t take good care of him (hello?). My mom was in another deep depression at that time so having another mouth to feed really didn’t affect me that much, but I was jealous of how much time this boy spent with my mom. We had to leave her alone because she was so emotionally fragile and I was taking care of my two little brothers and myself and the house and he got to go in my mom’s room all the time. It made me really mad. You have to understand that my father kept us very sheltered from the world- we lived out in the middle of nowhere and we were “homeschooled”, etc. The only people we knew were the people we went to church with (when we went).

Yet, God was there-

Even though doctrinally I know now that denomination was erroneous, God was still there and I got to volunteer in the nursery, sing in the choir, sing special music, play the piano and play the hand bells. That was the only time in those years I got to be me. I really believe that maintained my composure and sanity through a difficult time and God gets all the glory for that.

Then one day my dad announced to me some plans that made me sick to my stomach. I had always been the one to stand up to my dad when he acted nuts and this time was no exception. I told him all the ways that this was morally wrong and that I didn’t understand why he was talking like this. He told me that if I didn’t like it I could find somewhere else to live. I was almost 13. He said that if I told anyone what was going on he would kill himself.

That was a chance I was willing to take and I ran away when my dad was at work and called my grandparents to come pick me up. Once again God provided and they were there for me. I reported to a counselor they took me to what was going on- not knowing that what was occurring was a crime and that my family was about to implode.

My dad got wind that the cops were coming to arrest him and my mom and they left town. I was put in foster care. My brothers and I were separated. The first two foster homes were scary and unfriendly.  But the third time is the charm.  The next foster family were Christians and their church accepted me with open arms and again I was singing and going to youth group.

God provided.

My grandparents fought like crazy and within a year had custody of me. That was the time in my life that God gave me the opportunity to be a kid. I got to have sleep overs with my friends, go to the movies, eat meat, wear pants! It was great and I am thankful I had that experience.

However, when I was just about to turn sixteen I found out my mom was getting ready to have a baby with the same young man (thankfully it hadn’t materialized before then). I was an adolescent girl that harbored a lot of anger and resentment towards my mom for choosing a relationship over her children so I left my grandparents and ran away to try to force my mom to be a mom. That lasted two weeks. And I was 16 and on my own.

God provided and I had a place to live with an ex of my dad’s. I got a job and thought I had everything figured out. I used guys for money, food and drugs and ended up pregnant. That was the first time in a long time I prayed. One of those God if you get me out of this mess I will be perfect forever prayers. I didn’t think God answered but now that Jared is here I know He was in control the whole time. Able to make all things right with His omnipotent power.

When I was pregnant with Jared I met Mike. We have been married for 14 years and have had Matthew as well. Mike adopted Jared and we ended up getting custody of, and I later adopted, Mike’s son from his first marriage in 1999. God orchestrated every move of that custody battle that started with a phone call from neighbor.  God even used my teen pregnancy to bring me back to Him.

In the years that followed I faced cervical cancer- (God provided best doctors), life with my bonus son went downhill due to trauma and abuse he had suffered at the hands of his biological mother (strength to survive that only comes from God),and in the last few years we have faced the death of close loved ones (young and old), almost losing my life, another trial with my oldest son and my diagnosis of systemic lupus in October 2009.

Through it all God has been faithful.

My illness was God’s way of trying to get me to slow down and allow the Holy Spirit to do one of his most important jobs- (John 14:26) Allowing the Holy Spirit to be your counselor is one of the most healing things you can do. Slowly but surely- God will only reveal to you what you can handle- God is creating opportunities for me to remember, know that God remembered me then and he is remembering me now. I am better for all of it.

At this point in my life He has helped me realize that I am enough because He created me. I am loved, accepted and forgiven. I am an heir of God (Romans 8:16,17) And the thing God has helped me do the most is forgive myself. I had shame, feelings of failure, if I coulda, should, woulda’s. God doesn’t do that folks and neither should we- there are no might have beens.

God deals with our present and holds our future in His hands. Forgive yourself- it does NOT matter what you have done, what has been done to you- if he can send His own son to die on the cross for ALL our sins- yes even the ugly ones- the least we can do is offer that same forgiveness and mercy to others and ourselves.

I have recently reconciled with my father after thirteen years of not speaking, my mom and I have a  relationship. There will be more moments to come that He needs to reveal and shape and mold me into His will. Life is a journey- we don’t reach our final destination until heaven, so a year from now I may have a whole new testimony to share.

Allow God to continually work on you, if he reveals something that needs to be fixed be willing to do the work (whatever it is) to fix it.

Do you need to form a new habit?

Do you need to let bitterness go?

Do you need to focus less on yourself and more on others?

Whatever God reveals don’t fight it- let Him do His good work in and through you.

Psalm 27 is always of comfort to me and it tells us that God is always setting the stage for something greater in our lives than we are able to see through our momentary circumstances.

If you go back through the annals of your life you will see that God was and is there. This realization allowed me and it can allow you to really lean back into that love and trust that He will do what He says He will do. Nobody else in our life can offer us that- just God. Please, dear ones, whatever you are going through recognize that God is there with you. Lean on him and hold fast.

If any part of my testimony resonates with you and you need someone to talk with or pray with, please feel free to email me at kmelissasmallwood@gmail.com.