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Paula, now Paul—A Man After God’s Own Heart

Paula, now Paul—A Man After God’s Own Heart By Paul Pickering, Kokomo

I had a life that was far from God, drowning in homosexuality and transgenderism, trying to live as a woman in a man’s body.
But God had another plan. He invited me into a relationship with Him, and has since changed my life, forever! 
In Ephesians 4:22-24, it says: “You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; to be made new in the attitude of your minds; and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness.”
My past in homosexuality and transgenderism was a heart issue, and had very little to do with sex. 
I can now see the many life-dominating influences that contributed to who and what I became. I now realize that only God can give us accurate guidelines to measure ourselves by. And His guidelines are in His Word.
Growing up, I lived three different lives, which led to a great deal of confusion and personal turmoil. 
The first I will call my home life. My mother, myself and two brothers, plus a female friend of my mother’s, lived a quiet life in the country. My mother was a quiet and easy-going woman, it took a lot to make her angry. 
Mary, my mother’s friend was more outgoing, and I bonded more with her than my own mother. Mary and Mother worked at a nearby factory. They had us in bed early each day, because they had to leave early for work each morning. 
From the age of seven until I graduated high school, I had the responsibility of getting myself and my two brothers ready for school each day. It was my chore to clean the house and keep everything tidy. 
Mary was bold and assertive; she controlled much of what went on in our home. Finally, at sixteen years old, I discovered that Mary and my mother were in a lesbian relationship. 
Mary was a very big influence on my mother. She became jealous of our relationship because of the time it took away from their being together. When I was seventeen Mary told me that my mother wanted me to move out of the house and get my own apartment. I believed her and moved out. I later found that this was from Mary, not my mother. 
When I turned 21, Mary and my mother took me to a gay bar in Indianapolis where I saw my first drag show and male strip show. This was my first introduction to the transgender life. 
Up until this time I had no meaningful father influence in my life. My father never spoke to me or did anything with me. He never showed any interest in me and never contributed financially to my life. 
I did have two sets of grandparents, though. On weekends, summer vacations, and holidays we went back and forth between both sets. These two homes were as different as night and day. 
My maternal side of the family was fun, and a little scary, due to the drinking, card playing, cussing, and generally wilder life. After my maternal grandparents were divorced, my grandmother took a boy-friend into her home. He molested me over the next five years. I had no one to go to, no one who would help me escape this hell I was in.
My paternal grandparents were my only stability. They were much more conservative and proper. Each time we would visit, they would take us to church. Their home always felt safe and secure. My paternal grandmother was my rock. She was kind and was someone I could always lean on. When things were hard, she was always there for me. Unfortunately, I did not get enough time to spend with her.
My grandfather was really more like my dad, who was not very good at communicating with us.
So, I lived in three different worlds. My dysfunctional home that was often quiet, with no real bonding. My grandparents: one noisy, exciting, and scary; and one home safe and fun, but sad because my Dad didn’t care. 
As the years went by a secret life began to grow in my heart. I felt different. Very different. I was attracted to boys and men. And, I felt more like a girl than a boy. I really didn’t understand boys or men. I just wanted to be loved. 
I was born into this world not having the love of a father that every child needs. I only had a mother, who did everything to make my life as good as she could. She was a good provider, working hard each day. But my mother didn’t know how to express love to me more than this. I had no real affection in my life. 
I had no healthy male influence in my life, no father to lean on. Being raised by my mother and other women, I learned only how women felt, acted, and expressed themselves. 
I grew up lonely and confused. I hungered for a man’s attention and to show me affection. I didn’t know what it was like to feel or act like a boy. I knew what it was to be female, or at least I thought I knew what it was like. It felt natural. It seemed to fit me. 
With all the teasing, and people  calling me “Paula,” I finally decided that that’s who I was supposed to be and would become.
For the next 20 years, I acted on my feelings, living as a woman—Paula. I even had my doctor sign the form to change my name and gender on my driver’s license. I had all my paperwork signed and the date set for my sexual reassignment. Fortunately, my partner and I at the time, took that money to make a down payment on a home we bought together. 
Doing drag shows and living as a woman now gave me the attention I craved. I could finally get the attention from men that I had longed for my entire life. But, I was still lonely, and not truly fulfilled. Their attention came at a price.
On December 10, 2010, my life started to crumble. I lost the job I had for nearly 17 years. My life became darker and darker. I became fearful for my life and future. 
One night after this, I went out to perform in a drag show. This was typically a highlight for me, something I really enjoyed. Tonight would be very different, though. It was my birthday—February 13, 2011. That night felt like a living hell. I was being personally tormented. I started to feel that my life was over, that I was going to hell. It was Good Friday, of all days. 
I heard in my heart Satan telling me that he was going to drag me to hell! I was in a tug of war between God and Satan. I now realized that God was drawing me towards Himself, and Satan was doing all he could to keep me to himself and torment me. 
I wanted out, but I didn’t know where to go. I didn’t know the truth of God’s love and plan for my life, or what having a relationship with Jesus meant. 
I needed help. I needed to talk to someone who knew the truth and might understand what was going on with me. 
Every day for the past two weeks, to that night, I couldn’t eat or sleep. My partner was so concerned for me that he actually reached out to a godly married couple to counsel with me. I was able to meet with them that next morning. They confirmed my fears about Satan and the lies he was telling me. They opened the Bible with me, and showed me the truth about my life. They shared that Jesus could give me the love that I longed for and desperately needed. 
On April 23, 2011, Easter Sunday, I invited Jesus to enter my life. I went up to the altar, crying and literally screaming. I felt so unworthy of His love for me and this new and incredible gift of salvation and forgiveness. I confessed my sin, and received His love and forgiveness for me. I wanted to be baptized right away. I wanted to be rid of any demonic oppression that could be left. 
Shortly afterwards on Mothers’ Day, I was baptized at the couple’s house who had helped me—in their hot-tub, of all things! They prayed for me and prayed blessings over my heart and life. I was free! And I felt free! I had a new lease on life!
Five years later, I have good days and I have some bad—especially when I take my focus off of God and His provision and love for me. Regardless, through Jesus, I am a man of God. His truth has set me free. 
I love Him with all that I am, because He first loved me. Thankfully, I’m involved in an amazing church body that loves me for who I am, not focused on who I was. Each and every day, they pray for me and encourage me. They lift me up when I am down. My Creator, who knows every hair on my head, turns out to have just the right person there to help me through my day-to-day trials I’m facing. Their friendship brings life to me. I’ve learned to lean into my church family and friends in my struggles and times of temptation, and Satan’s feeble attempts to try to make me fall.
Through God’s provision, I have my own home, a new vehicle—at least new to me. I have not just one good job, but two! It keeps me busy and I’m now able meet my needs and even more. 
I have changed the music I listen to. Songs that praise the Lord are now my desire. They renew and lift my spirit. This is a way of renewing my mind. 
Revelation 22:14-15 and 17 says: “Blessed are those who wash their robes, that they may have the right to the tree of life and may go through the gates into the city. Outside are the dogs, those who practice magic arts, the sexually immoral, the murderers, the idolaters and everyone who loves and practices falsehood. The Spirit and the bride say, “Come!” And let the one who hears say, “Come!” Let the one who is thirsty come; and let the one who wishes take the free gift of the water of life.”
I’m incredibly thankful for Hope for Wholeness. The conferences and ministry of Hope for Wholeness and their online Facebook community have met such a deep felt need in my life. I no longer feel like a freak. I am now a man on a mission, and I’m part of a team. A team where I feel supported, encouraged, and cheered for. 
I am Paul Pickering, a man after God’s own Heart.
I hope to see you at the conference. If not, please give towards the conference scholarship fund, so that others like me may attend.

Sonya’s Story

Sonya BoltSonya’s Story

My journey began a very long time ago with a very bumpy road. My first crush was on the director of the kindergarten I attended. She was attractive and nice to me. As you can see, something must have happened before school that altered my thinking for me to be crushing on a woman at 5 years old. I just don’t have any memory of what that might be. In fourth grade a boy molested me in class and made me sit in a secluded area while two other boys also molested me on the playground. Once, my bus was in need of repairs, and I had to ride a different bus. Because of a mistake the teacher made, I got on the wrong bus and was scared to death because I didn’t know anyone. The boy who molested me in class and on the playground was riding that bus, so I bet you can guess what happened. This began my deep distrust of boys. I imitated what was being done to me to a baby girl at after school care. I carried that secret shame around for 37 years. I was caught but never talked about it to anyone including my parents. This is when my addiction to masturbation started. I had other experiences that would re-enforce my distrust of males.

My parents grew up in a culture that did not encourage open discussions. We just didn’t talk about feelings, sexuality, religion or beliefs. I learned to bottle up everything and bury it all deep down inside. I also learned at a very young age how to wear masks to protect myself and over the years I became very good at switching from one to another. I always knew that my parents loved me and wanted to give me a life better than they had experienced, and they worked hard to accomplish that. But they always pushed me to be perfect, and I heard often, “We just want you to be the best Sonya you can be, but why can’t you be more like _______” fill in the blank of any of my friends. I felt like I was never good enough or could never measure up to their standards. However, I do NOT blame my parents for becoming “gay,” nor any of my other issues. These were choices I made.

At the age of 12, I was introduced to pornography and was hooked. I also began drinking and smoking, which progressed into other drugs. From an outsider’s perspective, I’m sure I seemed very normal. I was in the band, dance, loved the outdoors & went camping, hiking and white water rafting. I had perfected the art of wearing “The Mask.” I dated a couple of guys to keep the façade of being “normal,” meanwhile lusting after girls in my class. I had always been a tomboy at heart, and my mother was constantly tried to make me into a princess. I believe that juggling all these expectations and maintaining the mask was the driving force behind my addictions.

One day in high school, a friend invited me to a concert with her youth group. It was here I accepted Christ as my Savior. I began to attend church but wasn’t ready to have my life changed. I now call this my “Fire Insurance” period. Shortly after, I had my first lesbian relationship. I had a dream/vision one night shortly after the concert. I was upstairs in my bedroom, and I heard an eerie sound from the street. I climbed out of bed and went to the window to see an old ambulance style vehicle driving slowly up the street. It was pure white and had a red glow inside. It turned into the cul-de-sac towards my house. I could hear this spine-tingling laugh come from the driver. The car was full of smoke, but I had a brief glimpse of the driver as he pointed his boney finger up at me laughing. I felt a rumbling in the floor and ran to jump back on my bed. A huge hole opened up in the floor, and I could smell sulfur and this indescribable stench. Satan himself rose up from that hole and said these words to me. “I don’t care what you believe, where you go or what you do – you will always be mine! Don’t ever forget that you and your soul is mine!” He descended back into the hole and it closed. I heard the car as it moved out of my driveway and as he turned onto the street, pointed back at me and repeated that I was his forever and drove off laughing. Needless to say this scared me pretty bad; however, because of my curious mind, I wanted to know more about this Satan and different religions.

After high school, I went to college and started questioning everything. I attended a small Baptist college, however would go from room to room asking questions of the girls on what they really believed. I learned about several religions and began my own adventure in trying them all out to see if they would fill the hole that was in my soul. I was on my own and free to do as I pleased and had to govern myself. I began to free-fall due to the lack any healthy boundaries. Abusing drugs and drinking, as well as going from one relationship to another, became my norm. I quickly realized these things did not fill the hole in my soul. I graduated with a social work degree, yet was not able to apply what I had learned to my own life. I began working with troubled adolescent girls in a group home, and learned how to perfectly balance my addictions with work. But that didn’t last for long. The next season of my life had me going from relationship to relationship and was at what I thought the lowest point of my life when one relationship ended, and I joined into an already established couple’s relationship. I later learned one of the women was abusive and the other introduced me to witchcraft. I became a practicing witch for over 6 years. Maybe Satan was right after all. This relationship was emotionally, physically and mentally twisted. I believed everything at face value and was hurt repeatedly. Why, you may ask? Well, that’s just what believing the lies of Satan can do to a person. It had been a very long time since my mind had been clear, and I didn’t know it then, but it would be a bit longer before the fog lifted.

A friend who had been watching my life spin out of control for some time and was very dear to me, urged me to get help and so I entered a mental health facility for treatment. About 9 months before being admitted, I had gotten down on my knees in my bedroom and cried out to God; the God I had met so many years before at the concert. I prayed for him to take me out of this world or save me because I couldn’t take much more. I was so messed up on drugs, alcohol, pornography and witchcraft that the pain I felt inside was ripping my soul apart. I had started cutting myself hoping once, just once, I would have what it took to end it all. But God had a plan. After getting out of the mental health facility a second time, I was able to get my own place, and I cried out to God again, this time with rage. “I prayed that you would take me out of this life because I wasn’t worth it! Now look where I am! Alone, starting from scratch! I have no friends, except the one who has been there through thick and thin!” You see, I was still doing drugs and drinking more than ever to try to deal with my reality. I had truly lost all my friends, except the one. I was urged to find a church but really had trouble getting my feet to cross the threshold. I finally did one Wednesday night. I liked it there and was immediately swept into service by the second Sunday – running the multi-media. That is where I spent the first 5 years of my “christian” walk. Because I was so busy serving, I never heard a sermon for the 5 years I attended that church. This is where my performance Christian walk began. For me, everything was an “If this, then that” kind of thing. I saw God’s love as conditional. If I behaved well enough, I could get a “piece of candy.” If I did something for you, I would get something in return. I was hoping that if I perfected doing the multi-media, God would love me.

I did however get into a small group, not for the right reasons though. It was because the leader of the singles group was a very attractive woman my age. But God had a plan and can even work through our wrong motives. I began attending this group and after several meetings, was invited to stay after. The leader started opening up and sharing her story with me and asking me questions. I quickly realized that although she was not gay, we had a lot in common and became good friends. Let me interject here that all my addictions were still in full swing. I thought, “OK finally my life is turning around.” Then I lost my job. For the first time in my life I wasn’t in a panic over this difficulty. I had a peace about it. Within a month I had another job offer. It was great, and I loved my job. Then the recession hit and businesses were cutting back – you guessed it – I was let go again. This time I was angry. I was out of work for four years. After unemployment ended, I went through savings, IRA and began selling my possessions. Unfortunately, I was still drinking to drown my pain. I cried out to God but heard nothing. I was working odd jobs, mowing lawns but still couldn’t pay my bills. I started volunteering at the church and worked with our care pastor as his personal assistant. He assisted me financially out of his own pocket when he could. In working with him, he recognized the signs of an addict/alcoholic, being a recovering addict himself. He had gotten approved to start a new ministry at our church called Celebrate Recovery and asked if I would attend a meeting with him at another church because he needed my help. I agreed but quickly realized that he had other motives of getting me into recovery. Again I was angry, my standard response, yet glad too. I was tired of just existing and desperately wanted what I saw others having. So I spent the next 7 years in recovery for drugs and alcohol. I fell many times and fought with God over and over, but that fog I mentioned earlier – it began to lift. I found a wonderful sponsor, in whom I have found another sister in Christ. Little did I know, God was replacing all my old friends with new godly ones. God was working on my life without me even realizing it. I had a new group of friends who didn’t want anything except the best for me. They knew about my addictions, pornography and homosexuality and loved me in spite of my failures. This was completely new to me. My sponsor and I worked on issue after issue, digging deeper to try to understand. I had never known this kind of love.

As the fog was lifting, I was spending more and more time in church and Bible studies. It was like something was growing inside me, to fill that hole in my soul. I still couldn’t find a job and was completely out of money. I asked God what to do and he told me to move in with my parents. I resisted at first but after two months, I packed and moved home. Again, God had a plan! Within three months, I had a full time job.The job was doing something for which I had no training, but they were willing to train me. I have been there for three years and love what it. My sponsor began talking to me about what my next steps should be to continue growing with Christ. I had no idea what she was talking about. She had been to a health expo and met someone at the Hope for Wholeness booth. They talked and she told me about it. Granted, she waited until God told her to tell me – because had she mentioned it years earlier, I would have shut her down. That just wasn’t up for discussion. But God had kept me from drugs, alcohol and to my surprise – homosexual relationships for a couple years. He had been working on my heart for years, a little bit at a time. So I was ready. She suggested that I get in touch with this ministry and get more information and see if it was something that God might be leading. I thought she had lost her mind, but went to the website anyway. I found out that they were about to have their annual conference. I didn’t know a soul walking through the doors on the first day.

It was like forcing myself to go to church and crossing that threshold. I was met with warm smiles and friendly faces. I continued to ask God, why am I here? He began to work deeper in my heart as I opened up to these people. I learned so much at the conference that it was overwhelming. It wasn’t a bunch of people bashing gays or preaching a turn or burn message. It was a message that Jesus loves you right where you are. I was still overwhelmed when I met Barbara at one of the women’s breakouts after dinner. I came up late and was debating on joining in. She asked me how I was doing, and I said I wanted to puke. Without missing a beat, she said, “Well here’s a bucket and here’s what we are doing….” I knew then I had found a kindred spirit. We prayed over several women in the group after the activity, and Barb was quick to include me to be prayed over. I have never told her this, but it was a turning point in my life. Thank you, Barbara. I ended up buying the whole conference on CD as well as purchasing books. I was also looking forward to the next year’s conference. I stayed in contact with Barbara and was drilling her as to what my next steps should be. She suggested I get into counseling with Meleah who led the ministry where she interned. I was willing to do whatever it was going to take. God had lit a fire under me. I told my sponsor all about the conference and was beginning my Skype sessions with Meleah. Throughout that next year, God was working on me. I purchased the Covenant Eyes filtering software to block my porn addiction, found a new church that continues to fan the flame that God set at the conference, and joined several bible studies including one with Meleah. Please don’t misunderstand, I fell – a lot with the porn addiction, but God was gentle with me. I loved Him, but still had that performance-based mentality that was hindering my fully receiving his love.
Flag picThis year, my second year at conference, I went into it completely exhausted from work and life. I had no energy to fight off any spiritual attack – which was about to become true warfare. I had expectations of fitting in with a group, but I ended up sitting alone even though others invited me to be a part. I had the devil on one shoulder whispering lies to me like, “No one wants to hang out with you” or “You’re still a looser.” All the while, God was allowing me to be alone so that I could get some rest and so that He could show me He was fighting for me. I was tossed in a sea of emotions – anger, frustration, exhaustion, sadness, depression and loneliness. It was if I was hanging onto a plank watching the battle unfold above with my spiritual eyes. This year they offered a class on different kinds of worship and through it I found a deeper connection with him through worship with flags. By Saturday night, I didn’t care about the spiritual battle going on around me, because I was worshiping my God. I had an encounter with God so powerful that it turned my world around. I was worshiping with the flags and was ushered into the Throne Room and God met me there. It was so tender and powerful that words cannot adequately describe. He had been doing delicate surgery on my heart and now that it was open – he could minister doses of his love that would heal the deepest scars. As he is my true source of love, I can develop healthier relationships with others.

It’s so amazing how God knows just how to reveal something so devastatingly amazing and profound about himself at just the right moment. You can’t browbeat someone into understanding the depth of His love. But he is able to reach our most private pain. It’s so crazy to try to understand why he’d wait THIS long for me to get this crucial piece of himself. I guess I was not really ready before now. He truly has waited decades for me to be ready but waited patiently to give me time so I could grasp His love. Since the conference, I have continued the Bible study with Meleah as well as counseling, and reading books to continue to walk out this path and dig deeper and deeper into who God is and His love for me. I continue to cultivate healthy relationships with other females but this will continue to take time as he heals my heart. My life isn’t perfect, and I’m not where I want to be, but Thank You God I’m not where I used to be.

Melanee’s Story

Melanee cropMelanee’s Story

BEAUTIFUL BRAVE BELOVED WARRIOR PRINCESS

One of my favorite parts of The Bible comes from Luke 4. It’s where KING YESHUA—JESUS—quotes from Isaiah 61 describing how He came to heal the brokenhearted—the people whose hearts were shattered. Which means He came to heal ME, and for that, I am so grateful! He has cleansed, healed, strengthened, and matured me—or said another way—He has set me free from many life-dominating thought-patterns and behaviors. I am NOT the same woman I was when I became a Christian in 1985, or when I started real recovery in 1995. But I’m getting ahead of myself, so let me slow down and give you a little background.

I’m the youngest of four children born to a career Navy dad and a self-taught mom. I look a LOT like my beautiful mom, and in certain pictures, much like my good-lookin’ dad.

I have an unusual spelling of the name Melanee—there are two EEs at the end. All my siblings and I have the exact same initials: MLD. (Between Maynard Lee, Michelle Lyn, Mark Leroy, and Melanee Lisa, it drove the babysitters crazy trying to call the right name!)

While growing up, I was sexually, physically, emotionally abused and neglected for over 13 years. My main form of dealing with the trauma was dissociating; which basically means, I disconnected my thoughts and emotions from what was occurring to my body. Because the violations horrifically shattered my heart into many broken pieces, it took a long time until I started to talk with PAPA GOD about all the pain from my childhood. As a matter-of-fact, I was almost 34 when I began risking to trust Him with my deepest hurts, but… He is VERY Patient!

As a military family, my family moved a LOT, but no matter where we lived, I sporadically experienced intense feelings towards girls and/or female teachers. My thoughts and feelings were SO strong, I wanted to marry the girls, or go live with the teachers. Mrs. Starr, my 2nd and 3rd grade teacher in Silver Strand, California, seemed especially safe to me. I even asked her if she had a nice husband and if I could go live at her house.

It was in Silver Strand where a lot of the sexual abuse occurred. There were parts of the sexual abuse specifically aimed at shaming me for being a girl, while promoting the superiority of boys. I have vivid memories of desperately wanting to be a boy when I was younger. Those cravings did not begin to dissipate until after entering real recovery in ‘95. It did take almost ten years of butt-kicking hard work (one of my favorite phrases!) before I was truly satisfied with being who PAPA created me to be: a beautiful and strong girl.

The hard recovery work I did basically consisted of surrendering to and resting in PAPA’S Great Love! That kind of “work” may not sound so difficult, but I was used to controlling, manipulating, and lying as a way of surviving, so being rigorously honest with GOD, myself, and someone else was TERRIFYING! It was also BEAUTIFULLY life-transforming!

As I mentioned, a lot of the abuse happened in Silver Strand, so it was really strange having my favorite teacher, favorite physical location, and other phenomenal memories all wrapped-up in the same place where so much of the bad stuff occurred. I was in my late 30s when I finally started being able to truly grasp, in the inner-core of my being, that “bad stuff does not negate good stuff” and vice-versa.

Growing up, I felt like “one-of-the-boys,” so it seemed totally normal to hangout with boys as close friends. Additionally, PAPA had gifted me with many talents, including excelling in sports and playing the drums—both considered to be “boy” activities. Although I was often accused of attempting to be a boy, I never told anyone what I felt like inside. Instead, I adamantly told them, “I am NOT being a boy! I am just being MelanEE!” When I would say that, people would back off, which would allow me to finally breathe easier. I definitely did NOT want them to know about the horrible stuff happening to me—to my spirit, soul, and body. And I sure wasn’t going to let anyone know that I literally FELT LIKE A BOY on the inside—and often wanted to physically be a boy on the outside.

I decided I was gay when I was a 17-year-old high school senior, and then went to college on a volleyball/softball scholarship. Over the next 17 years, I held hands in public with whomever I was in relationship with, marched in gay pride parades, and worked for two different lesbian-owned companies—landscaping and screen-printing. I also reveled in wearing my “I’m A Dyke” shirt (both before and after I was a Christian), and thought I had found my true love on numerous occasions. I was wildly passionate about playing volleyball, and LOVED dancing in the gay bars; yet, I didn’t drink alcohol, smoke cigarettes, or do drugs of any kind.

My college teammates and friends did NOT understand my lack of drinking or smoking or drugging, but I didn’t like the feeling of being out-of-control. I had “my standards,” you know. In other words, I secretly felt superior to “those people” who kept drinking and drugging and smoking just to get through another day-hour-minute. In those days, I had no idea that sex was my own “drug of choice” to get ME through another day-hour-minute. After I left home at age 17, it would take another 17 years before I would begin to come to my senses—before I would begin to realize that I, too, was “one of those people.” But GOD is very PATIENT!

In 1991, when my oldest brother, Maynard, died at 34 from AIDS, I was devastated. It was the-beginning-of-the end for me. My usual coping skills for dealing with stress and anxiety no longer worked well. I was a miserable, depressed mess.

One year earlier, my lesbian partner (whom I will refer to as PB) and I had a “marriage” ceremony at the Metropolitan Community Church (MCC) in Gainesville, Florida. Both of our gay brothers were there and they signed the paperwork as our witnesses. My fellow employees from the screen-printing shop were there, as well. Many friends from MCC, which is often referred to as the “gay church,” considered PB and me to be strong Christians and the “perfect couple.” It would take a number of years before I began to see just how imperfect I was. My brother’s death was the catalyst GOD used to begin my realization of how sick I was, and how desperately I needed Him to be LORD in every area of my life—no matter what it cost me.

While still in Gainesville, PB and I attended the MCC version of Cursillo, Tres Dias, and Walk to Emmaus (these are weekend retreats held by different Christian denominations). It was at this retreat where I distinctly remember having an important conversation with the senior pastor of the Jacksonville MCC. PB and I were sitting outside with the pastor when I asked her if homosexuality was a sin. She responded, “If homosexuality is a sin, it will not keep us out of heaven. And whether it is or not, Jerry Falwell will be very surprised to see us.” [Note: At the time, Jerry Falwell was a well-known Christian who verbally attacked homosexual people.]

Because I was often silent out of fear, I didn’t say anything, but I was totally dissatisfied with her answer. She hadn’t answered my question any better than all the other gay pastors I’d already asked. It was the same question I had asked GOD when I first became a Christian, and even though He had given me His Answer, I wasn’t satisfied with it, either. With Him, I spoke out of fear, as well as, was silent out of fear. I sometimes still do this to Him and other people.

As I continued to live as a “gay Christian,” I periodically asked people my “hot-topic” question, but I wasn’t satisfied with anybody’s answer. So, I just kept living as a lesbian who was a Christian—or—was I a Christian who was a lesbian? I often asked myself those questions, but my answers kept producing more questions. And those questions had answers I’d already decided were not satisfactory to me. In other words, I had set myself up to be my own authority. But I would never have admitted to doing so, because “I was a good Christian” and good Christians don’t set themselves up as “The Authority.”

PB and I moved to Tallahassee, Florida, in 1992, and we started the Tallahassee MCC in the fall of 1993. It was in January 1994 when I first met PB’s Christian therapist. I began couple counseling because PB thought we had problems. I agreed to meet, but I silently thought, “PB has problems, but I don’t.” I was very arrogant and sick, although I didn’t know it at the time. But PAPA is Patient and Faithful to bring ALL THINGS into the Light of His Truth.

I learned many good things while in couple counseling, but nothing dramatically changed in my life until I finally admitted to this reality: “I have a problem—and—the problem is me.” I had refused to own this for 33+ years, but “real recovery” began the first time I walked into my therapist’s office because “I” had a problem. That infamous date was Friday 1 September 1995. I was finally beginning to give GOD full reign in ALL areas of my life—including all the pain—no matter the costs. HalleluYAH!!!

How do I communicate to anyone else what all has occurred since 1 September ‘95?

This much I can say, it was: horrible and terrible and worse than anything I’ve ever experienced. It was hellish and demonic and dark and hopeless and excruciatingly painful. It was full of fear!

Just thinking about all the horrific pain brings tears to my eyes…, and yet…

Also… tears of joy as PAPA reminds me of what all else the last 20+ years have been: life-transforming, extremely joyful, beyond beautiful, and phenomenally wonderful! It was full of HOPE! The amazingly deep intimacy I now experience with PAPA (and many people) is worth every bit of pain from the millions of spiritual and emotional “heart surgeries” He performed on me!

In other words—ALL of the gut-wrenching pain has been worth it to be FREE!!!

To be free from the traumatic effects of over 13 years of sexual, physical, emotional abuse and neglect, to be free from dissociative identity disorder (DID), to be free from gender-identity disorder (GID), to be free from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), to be free from over 30 years of same-sex sexual/romantic feelings, to be free from almost 16 years of homosexual behavior, to be free from sexual fantasies, pornography, and masturbation, to be free from lying, to be free from fear as a life-dominating way of thinking, to be free… is worth every bit of pain experienced during the cleansing, healing, strengthening, and maturing process that KING YESHUA has walked me through. OORAH!!!

I am free to be the Beautiful Brave Beloved Warrior Princess Daughter MelanEE of The Most High KING!!! HalleluYAH!!!

I know, I know—some of you are wondering, “So… where’s the physical healing story??” Here it is, in a nutshell:

At 0717 on Sunday 16 August 2015, PAPA said, “I. Have. Healed. You.”

I burst into tears… and then praised Him! I asked PAPA later what He meant by His Four Words, and He said, “The Lyme, Babesia, and Bartonella—all the diseases—are gone from your body.”

More tears and more praise erupted from me to my Beautiful Brave Beloved KING YESHUA!!! My KING BRAVEHEART! HalleluYAH!!!

Contact Melanee

Brady Cone’s Story

Brady Cone’s Story

Brady Done Director

Brady Cone
Director

Just eight short years ago I was a college student at Chadron State, and I was living a homosexual lifestyle. I had struggled with these issues since a young age and thought I was trapped in that lifestyle. Coming to know Christ changed everything! However, Jesus gave me another choice: a life of holiness through Him. Leaving behind a world of homosexuality was the most difficult thing that I have ever done, but through it, God has given me new life and freedom in ways I never dreamed.

Did God magically take away my struggle with same sex attraction (SSA)? No. But, He did two huge things in my life that helped me away from my gay life:

First, He gave me a new identity. He showed me that I am not defined by my struggle, my feelings, or by the labels that society gives me. I am defined only by the fact that I am His child!

Next, He gave me power. He showed me that through the power of the Holy Spirit, I have the ability to wake up every day and choose to live a life that is pure, holy, and honoring to Him, no matter what feelings and attractions I have.

It has been 8 years since I have walked away from my former life. It has been an up and down journey, but God has shown me that through my obedience in denying myself, He gives me life in ways that the world never could.

I still have SSA, but through the hope I have in Jesus, God has given me the ability to deny myself on a daily basis. I know am able to minister to others who struggle with SSA, and also to friends and family members of those who do.

God has given me a story. It is a story that begins with heartache, pain, and brokenness. And it ends with hope and redemption. He has called me to share my story with anyone who will listen, and He keeps giving me opportunities to do so. Through sharing my story, I hope to give people a glimpse of what it is like to deal with SSA, which call them to show love and compassion to the gay community and anyone with SSA. I also want them to see the Gospel in my story. I want them to see what denying ourselves looks like, and how Jesus changes the way that we live.

Usually after sharing my story, I have people who contact me wanting help. Most of my contact with them is through email, since they usually don’t live in the town or state that I do. But I try to encourage them and point them to resources that may help.

Chris Sherwood’s Story

Chris Sherwood Park Street MassChris Sherwood’s Story

I was born to an alcoholic mother and an emotionally absent and explosive father and was raised in a small and poor working class town in upstate NY. My mother was a non practicing Catholic. But we were all expected to participate in after school catechism instructions and to prepare for First Holy Communion and Confirmation. Later, in a desperate act to rescue me from my discipline problems in school, I was sent to Notre Dame High School. The experiment was an abysmal failure. I dropped one course and failed 5 others. The atmosphere at home was cold and tense for all six children. I dealt with the anxiety by spending all of my time on the streets making as many friends as I could. (I ended up being best man in several weddings). The summer I graduated from grammar school I met an older girl (15) who invited me to go for a walk into the woods. From that point on I focused most of my energies toward romantic and sexual relationships. At age 14 my friends and I were able to create fake identification cards in our printing shop class and found that mom and pop stores were happy to sell us beer. The drinking added another significant component to my life. When I was 16 my best friend went off to the State University of New York at Oswego. He became one of the ring leaders of what was known as “Seneca 6 -the “drug floor” of the campus. He invited me to visit and gave me my first taste of hashish. From there I led a typical hippie life of the 1970s – sex, drugs rock and roll, campus protests, etc.

Out of a high school class of 410 students I graduated at number 395. I attended a local community college and was coming very close to flunking out. During the summer after my freshman year I was with a girlfriend at the Chemung County Fair where a local church had sponsored a booth off the midway. I saw their sign (I have no idea today what it said) and walked over to ask what they were all about. A man my age explained that God saw me naked in my sin and was ready to forgive me through the cross of Christ. He explained the sinner’s prayer and invited me to come inside and accept the Lord as my savior. I declined his offer thinking that I had no interest in a religion that threatened to interfere with the party life that I loved. But what he told me rang true – it just sounded universally right. So, when I was in my bed on that August night I said, “Ok, Jesus if you are really there, come into my heart and forgive my sins.” Today I have no doubt that he answered that prayer. But it was almost two years before there were any changes in me. I moved into a large apartment house with my friends – including my best friend who flunked out of Oswego State. My parents didn’t ask where I was going when I packed his car with all of my possessions. We became a center for partying and drug dealing. Most of us had jobs, but our lives centered on that season of fun. I was dating six women, I managed to get a good job in a State Psychiatric Hospital and we never had any problems finding the hashish, mescaline or LSD that we wanted. All was right with the world.

A friend of mine told me that my parents were wondering where I was since they hadn’t seen me in six months. So on occasion I would visit them. One evening I was in their kitchen when my mother came running in and said, “There are some Jesus freaks at the front door, Chris, go get rid of them!” A week later I was on their bus going to church. The sermons were a bit dull, but the hymns really had an impact on me.  I found myself taking the truths of the Gospel more to heart. There was a Pentecostal Church located a block from where I grew up. We used to ride our bicycles by and shout at them through their front door. I decided to pay them a visit and was quickly adopted by a family who had four children near my age. It turned out that they lived a block from our hippie house and soon I was well connected there. But my hypocritical lifestyle was starting to bother me. So one morning as we were invited to pray at the altar, I felt I just had to confess everything to the assistant pastor (who turned out to be the one who witnessed to me at the county fair). I told him that I was partying every weekend, doing drugs, sleeping with my girlfriend and basically living a life of sin. He looked me straight in the eyes and said, “Brother, God understands. Jesus was temped the same way you are. He knows what you’re going through.” I was stunned. This was a very legalistic church that preached a lot of condemnation. Yet, this pastor explained God’s mercy, compassion, forgiveness, and love. I never made a resolution to change. I never told myself that from this day forward I will behave, but very gradually over time my desires were transformed, not by my determination, but by the grace of God and the unconscious transforming power of the Holy Spirit. That pastor’s brief description of God’s mercy gave me the confidence I needed to not give up, no matter how guilty I felt. During those years of very progressive sanctification I just kept repeating, “His mercy endures forever.”

I was helping to organize a protest at our local private college. And of course the first thing on the agendas for our planning meetings was to pass around a couple of joints. At one of our meetings I noticed that someone had thrown a Bible on my lap and it hit me that I had been talking to our committee about Christ. I apologized, and we went on with our business. A couple of months later I was in a bar with three of our hippie house crew and I noticed that everyone was giving an odd stare. Again, it hit me that I had just given them a little lecture on salvation. I immediately apologized, told them to give me another beer and we forgot the incident. I found the whole thing to be strange, but almost against my will, my mind and heart were being transformed. It wasn’t long before I let the hash pipe pass by. I decided I needed to break up with my beautiful blonde girlfriend and say goodbye to her brand new Corvette convertible.

The state of New York decided to build public housing on the site of our hippie house and gave each of us checks for a few thousand dollars to help us resettle. My first thought was to buy myself a really nice car. But, as a Christian I decided that I should pray about it. “Lord, what should I do with this money?” The next week someone gave me a copy of Young Life magazine that featured an article on Christian colleges with a survey of the best ones to attend. And I thought, “That’s what I’ll do. I’ll go back to school!” But my academic record made me nervous. All of the evidence said that I would fail. That January, my pastor pulled some strings and at age 24 I packed my 1969 Mustang and moved to East Providence Rhode Island. Two years before this I was a completely autonomous and determined party animal. And now I found myself in a Fundamentalist Pentecostal Bible College where the lights had to be out at 10:30, no one was allowed to leave campus without permission, men and women were required to wear uniforms and had to sit on opposite sides in classes. It was a bit of an adjustment, but Christ had a plan. It was here that I learned that the core of Christian spirituality is faith. At that time Zion Bible Institute charged no tuition and no room and board. It in essence was able to offer a three year college education for free because they trusted God to meet their needs. And it turns out that God knew that I could handle college classes. I ended up graduating with honors with a BA, MA and D.Min. And for the last 17 years the guy who graduated in the bottom 10 percentile in high school and almost flunked out of college is ministering to students, graduates and faculty from Harvard Medical School, Harvard Law School, MIT and many of the 100 other colleges and universities that surround Park Street Church in downtown Boston.

Although I had no basis for knowing whether my feelings would ever change, I concluded that I could trust the One who created me and died for me, and in fact trust Him more than my own attractional tendencies.

Solely His – A Female Leader within Hope for Wholeness

Sonia BalcerMy story is perhaps a bit different from many you might hear on a website like this, and although I’m not ready to go totally public, what I share here might serve as an encouragement to those who may be wondering where they fit. I was raised by two parents who loved me well, who were very devoted to one another and to my older brother and me. Although human, their example of kindness, integrity, commitment, and hope for the future continues to be a source of much strength and inspiration.

Like many who experience same sex attraction, I had the feeling from a young age of being “different” and out of synch with the larger world of male and female, of men and women. This caused deep loneliness that was only partially offset by the love around me, for I intuitively knew this “difference” would be a heavy burden and would cause me to have to make difficult choices. By this time I had begun to encounter the mysterious and irresistible presence of a much greater Love that called to me from the other side of eternity, that beckoned from the heavens for me to trust and to know He was and always would be present.

When my mother encountered Christ about a year later (my father’s journey took a bit longer), I first heard His name, and asked Jesus into my heart. I was then three years of age, and this introduction happened just in time because some great trials awaited me. In addition to the burden of feeling different, from the age of seven I suffered multiple instances of sexual molestation from outside of the family that amplified the loneliness and put me at great discomfort with my gender.

Throughout my teenage years I suffered mostly in isolation, though not entirely, as I was able to confide in my mother and know that she was praying for me and that both she and my father loved and believed in me, confident in my future. I did well in school and, though painfully shy and awkward, was reasonably well liked there, where I eagerly explored all areas of learning, particularly the sciences which were and remain my first love.

Toward the end of high school I began to be physically and romantically intimate with another high school girl. This lasted for several months until I realized I could not reconcile such a relationship with what I believe God has intended for sexual expression, that it only be between man and woman. Although I had no basis for knowing whether my feelings would ever change, I concluded that I could trust the One who created me and died for me, and in fact trust Him more than my own attractional tendencies.

In my twenties while attending college and grad school, I found some measure of rest and joy in the local church where I was able to work through the sexual abuse and again feel innocent and confident in relation to both men and women. My friendships were able to deepen and life became full as I entered my chosen profession as a scientist.

Around this time I also pursued healing support in groups focused specifically on serving those with same sex attractions. Groups such as Desert Stream and inspirational conferences such as by the late Exodus International connected me with others who were on a journey of trust in the destiny given not by human conceptions of sexual fulfillment but a vision of love reflecting God’s eternal image of male and female.

At the same time, I was faced with a dilemma, in that some twenty years after starting on this journey I saw no discernible signs of attraction towards the opposite sex, even after the most in-depth and transparent reckoning of any aspect of my past or personal background that might be blocking my path forward. I began to wonder if I had failed, or more fundamentally if I had not understood what was being asked of me. Many in my circle of friends were beginning to embrace a pro-gay interpretation of scripture in relation to sexuality, and I knew that I needed to follow my heart in asking questions that might lead me into unexpected territory.

And so I began a period of reflection, of questioning, of weighing the different schools of thought and most importantly listening for the voice of my True Love as He led me to take this step of faith. During that period, I encountered yet deeper currents of His love, in a territory that grew larger, more wild and more joyous. Out of that time of listening, it became clear that I had not heard amiss, but that I was exactly where He had wanted me to be. I had not misunderstood that same sex relations were not my destiny, but I had unintentionally taken on a human criteria of success as measured by whether there was a shift of attractions.

This was not an expectation He had imposed. All He had ever wanted was for me to love Him, to go to deep places of the heart with total openness of being transformed and becoming increasingly the woman He envisioned from before the beginning of time, growing into someone who could abide in the Eternal, who could embody His grace and patience and peace, who could live each moment to glorify the Creator who had given Himself to redeem mankind.

For the first time, I was truly free. The burden that had weighed so heavily upon me from the time I was a child lifted, and I experienced a joy and lightness of being I had never known. Although some in my circle of treasured others walking their respective journeys could not accept that I could be at peace with an ongoing attractional tendency and therefore dismissed me, it did not matter. My limbs were unbound and I could run forward with much greater confidence and exuberance, and I have never looked back.

What does the future hold? Often He does not reveal it to us as humans, and I am no exception. Whether I continue as I am or am surprised (as many have been) by falling in love with someone of the opposite sex, life is full and I am content. Although I experience attractions towards women, I identify it only as a tendency and something I experience, not the essential feature of who I am, namely a woman who abides in the love of God. Though a tendency that I do not act upon sexually, it has afforded me much as a vehicle through which I have drawn close to Christ. I trust how He works and I trust Him with my future.

We are not intended to walk this journey alone. We become by knowing and being known, in the lives we touch by being there and the lives through which we are touched. The “living stones” fit together into a place to belong. The choices we make matter because, whether in identifiable or subtle ways, they make a difference in the lives of others.

That’s where Hope for Wholeness comes in. It is a network of those who have chosen to entrust Christ with their sexuality and to support others in their journey. I am so glad that the network was officially launched in 2013 (the actual beginning goes back years earlier) to form a network of ministries so that persons who are struggling with same sex attraction and who desire support can find it with others walking in a similar direction.

The God Almighty whose signature is written in the galaxies, whose pen traces the swirls of nebula gases and DNA spirals, whose breath is in the expansion of stars and the lifting of tiny leaves in the wind, sees us and invites us to join Him in His song. This I do and pray others are also inspired as they recognize His voice calling from eternity.

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