Category : Women

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

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.

I really can't thank you enough. To say that my walk with the Lord has changed in the last year is an understatement.

Ministry Appreciation

“Hi McKrae, I have been taking the Hope for Wholeness class with Miranda and Kimberly. I saw that this is ministry appreciation week and I just wanted to take a minute to write a note and thank you for all that you do every day. I really can’t thank you enough. To say that my walk with the Lord has changed in the last year is an understatement. The class has been a safe place for me to look at issues that I never could face before and to be able to do it with people who cared about me and loved me through very difficult times. The conference was a real turning point for me and I wanted to thank you for that as well. To be able to hear testimonies from people can be life-changing to those who are seeking and who feel hopeless. Testimonies are undeniable evidence that God can transform a life when many like myself felt it wasn’t possible. The conference allowed me to meet others who had similar stories. The enemy so often wants us to feel like we are alone and different and that causes the hopelessness, but because of the conference I’ve been able to build a strong bridge of support and I am so thankful for Hope for Wholeness and the changes that are happening in my life. I have made sure that Miranda and Kim know how much I appreciate the time that they have invested in me, the support they have given me, and the examples that they are to me of great women of God who seek him daily through the word, but I also wanted to take some time to thank you as well and to just hopefully encourage you by telling you of a life that has been changed because of this ministry and how God has used it. While I am not yet able to share my testimony publicly, I know one day I will as I continue to grow in Him. What God has done already is a miracle and I thank the Lord every day for your ministry. I am praying for you and your ministry team. God bless you as you serve Him so faithfully.” Shared with permission.

Not ready to be public? You can participate in the Redemption Challenge with a anonymously written message on the Redemption Challenge commitment page.

The burning passions I felt for other girls and women increased with fury in highschool. As much as I longed to have a passion for other guys, I had feelings for other girls.

My Journey My Story

AqueenaMy Past

When I was 11 years old, I discovered, as a result of the onset of puberty, that I had same-sex attractions. Being brought up in a Christian home with my mom as the sole provider, it was quite challenging for me because I always felt like I didn’t belong. While my older sister was talking about her boyfriends, I felt like I couldn’t relate because I was extremely fascinated by some of my girl friends that I went to school with and the girls I was on a dance troupe with. In my early childhood years, before 11 years old, I had been exposed to pornography, was molested, had engaged in oral sex with girls in grade school, and also bullied. For me, as a result of these things, my personal boundaries had been shattered and the desire for sexual contact had been awakened in me. Many of these bodily invasions and treatment of others left a damaging mark on my soul. Even though I had come to know Jesus at 9, I was weighed down with so much shame, guilt, and condemnation. I dreamt over and over again about these things, awakening in the middle of the night in fear. These experiences controlled every part of who I thought I was. And, I was also riveted with a feeling that “people will find out.” I was confused.

HighSchool Trauma

The burning passions I felt for other girls and women increased with fury in highschool. As much as I longed to have a passion for other guys, I had feelings for other girls. I spent a ton of time crying and grieving over the fact that I could be gay. I was heavily involved in my youth group, school Bible clubs, church, etc. Although I felt often that I was different (considering I was the only Black girl involved in these activities in the inner city, go figure), I believed that the Lord wanted me to keep growing in my faith, seek support about m feelings through mentors, pray, and read my Bible more. I bought into this WHOLE idea that if I “just prayed away the gay feelings” I will be ok. I was told about Exodus by a teacher at my school. But she said, “Well, since you haven’t really acted out on these feelings in highschool, this organization is NOT for you.” So, she encouraged me to just go to prayer, seek God in His Word, and stay connected with other believers. And, all those things WERE helpful for me. And, I know that this teacher was doing the best she could with my disclosure to her. However, my confession came with a price. And guess what…I was rejected by this older sister in Christ, under the guise of “I believe the Lord is moving on from this prayer ministry.” Fortunately, I was able to move on slightly although, honestly, quite hurt that apparently some of my actions (childish because I was a child) began to make her uncomfortable.

After attending that prayer group for a year and a half, I had a ton of relief from my same-sex feelings and desires. Maybe my hormones settled a bit as a result of getting older. Or, maybe ‘prayer’ had cured me. I was happy that prayer had become a “gay be gone” anecdote to my emotionally rooted problem. I was serious about my faith and was glad that sexuality was not going to keep me from knowing Christ and serving in the church community. I thought I was “healed,” but little did I know that I was just putting a Band-Aid over some deep wounds of my past and present that I believe fueled my desire for the same-sex.

College

I went to Moody Bible Institute. In that time, I had believed that I had a handle on my sexuality. I had not acted out since I was a child and did not plan on it. However, as I look back, it seems as if I began to behave like a “lezzie”-(this means finding a woman you care deeply about. After a couple months, you move in with them). But, I did this emotionally several times. I wanted a best friend, sought after the girls that I perceived to be attractive (however, I didn’t have feelings for them, just drawn to them magnetically.). We became friends, I basically gave my heart to them, became really dependent on them because they were very nurturing, then after a few months of bickering, fighting, and avoidance, they decide to end the friendship. I noticed that something was wrong; a pattern that kept repeating itself in my life. I sometimes thought, “Could it be I had been attracted to the same-sex before?” I did not understand why my relationships with women were so complicated. But, they were. Because of the ending of these relationships, I became depressed and put up a wall emotionally. I was tired of being hurt so I went to counseling. At that point in my life, I didn’t feel the need to take on a gay-identity. Actually, I never wanted to and still don’t want to. I knew that identifying myself would solidify something I knew would take me down a road I did not believe God wanted me to go.

Grad School and Later

My last year of college and first year of grad school, I was in counseling for 2 years. During that time, I never told my counselors that I had at some point in my life had same-sex desires. I didn’t feel like it was relevant or necessary to discuss with them. Looking back, I wish I would have told them, but in that time, I found people very untrustworthy and unforgiving. So, I conveniently left that part out. In grad school, a few of my classmates had alluded a couple times about a “male energy” I had. Some were bold enough to make comments about me being in a relationship with a woman. Others sensed my gaping need to connect with a mother and were a bit concerned about that energy I had, also known as emotional dependency. My program at Columbia College Chicago was very eastern in thought, gay affirming, and accepting of spiritual thinking and openness. Quite foreign for someone coming out of conservative Christian MBI. I kept thinking in grad school, “Lord, I know I’m not gay. Please don’t let any of these people place that label on me.” However, I believe that it was the Lord’s strategy for me to connect back to my emotional life and really deal with it’s wounding. Part of dealing with it had to do with me admitting and facing that I probably still had some same-sex attractions. But, I was unwilling to face that reality in grad school. So, I suppressed it more but it was soon to emerge. Honestly, if this is the place I’m allowed to be real, I just wanted to be loved without conditions. Before finishing grad school, I had a surgery that almost took my life. It was then I realized and was awakened to the possibility that the Lord wanted to do some work in my life.

Soon after I graduated from grad school, only months after my surgery, I met up with some old college friends. One of them gave her brief testimony about how she had thought she was gay at one point in her life, but that the Lord had revealed himself to her in a special way, and she was “walking the straight and narrow”, also known as the holiness track-no dating/or being physically involved with other women. I thought this woman had it all together. And, it had been a really long time since I had connected emotionally with someone. It was a breath of fresh air for me to hear that it was possible to just keep pursuing God even though you have a past with same-sex attractions, and that I was on the right track. I thought this sister would give me pointers. So, we connected, and I proceeded to pick her brain about her thoughts about relationships, God, and sexuality. Then, my attractions emerged as if I was in highschool again. I became embarrassed about beginning to feel this way toward her. I was frightened and immediately, within the first month of our friendship, I assumed the worse. I thought she was going to leave me. So, with all of my own undealt with unhealthiness, I pursued a friendship with her full forced. In retrospect, I probably should have slowed down and re-evaluated what I was really trying to get out of the friendship. But, I didn’t then because I didn’t have the tools. Long story short, our friendship ended. It was one of the most dramatic and brutal endings of a friendship in my life! But through the drama, I encountered God’s love.

What About Now?

I tell you all this to really just put myself on blast. Yes, I have grappled with same-sex attraction in the past. Yes, if I’m being “raw” here, they are still with me as I write this post. No, I’m NOT gay. I do not identify myself in being gay because I finally understand what it means to be identified with Christ. This means plainly that whatever God says about me is true, then it’s true. If God says, “You are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of the darkness into his wonderful light,” (1 Peter 2:9) then that is who I am. I belong to God. Yes, while I was at Exodus, I was a bit too excited (attracted) to someone there, even while being a speaker. Did I pursue anything? Nope. I did what McKrae Game said on his video blog, “Humanize the idol.” That helped alot. Yes, I was embarrassed and felt ashamed because ‘How could a speaker be tempted at a conference to help people with unwanted same-sex attractions?’ Don’t forget, Christians, that we have an enemy.( I will post more about that later too.) My heart is to honor God with my body, soul, and spirit and to not have sex (or even lust after emotionally) with a woman. I also want to honor God with my body by not having sex with a man until I’m married to him. Yes, I believe the creative intent of God was for a family as it involves marriage to be between a man and a woman. Does marriage between a man and a woman work? That answer will be given on another post, maybe. But here’s my point in saying all this:

I don’t want ANYONE to say that I have it all together. When they look at me, I want them to say I am HELD together by Christ. Christ ALONE is my present and future “…hope of glory.” (Colossians 1:27) As I have been growing closer to God and recognizing what I really need, I have learned this on my journey; my attractions are NOT sin in and of themselves. It’s only temptation. However, my attractions, at times, have really signaled to tell me I’m in need of something. (Even that whole theory of mine will be explained on later posts.) But, I’m confident in this thing right here: I’m loved and that God’s grace is perfected when I’m weak at times. I no longer “white-knuckle” my feelings. I let myself feel…then I reach out to a friend, brother, or sister in Christ…….then, I move forward. My obedience is in the forward motion, NOT the temptation dwelling. 🙂

—Queen

Jennifer Thorne

Jennifer Thorne did an interview with her Pastor (Terry Folks) which aired on the TBN network. Hope you find encouragement from this.

My Wakeup Call by Christel Novella

Christel NovellaMy Wakeup Call by Christel Novella

God said in my heart. Choose Life or Death…decide.

I grew up in an Italian, Catholic, middle-class family in NJ. My Dad owned his own business and worked a lot like most fathers. He did very well, so we were not lacking in the material realm. Mom worked as the administrator so she was always home with my younger brother and me. Life was good.

As I look back to what might have planted the seed of my attraction to the same sex, I can attribute it to two main factors. One, I believe was the culture in the 60s and 70s. From my perspective, women were subservient to men, waiting on them hand and foot, which was not very attractive to me. I thought, “I don’t want to be that woman. I want to be the strong, self-sufficient one.” Two, looking back I can see now how being exposed to the hard-core porn in my Grandfather’s dresser had a seriously negative impact on my view of women and their role in the world in which I lived.

Mom began a personal search for truth, and we started attending different churches. One of my mom’s friends invited us to her Pentecostal church. When the gospel was preached, I responded and became a born again Christian at the age of 12. My entire family became believers around the same time. We eventually ended up in a Baptist church that we all loved. I had a wonderful youth pastor and youth group that helped me grow and get close to God. I was on fire for Him and started serving and sharing the gospel with others. Then I met a boy and things went downhill from there. My focus went from God to him. From that time through my college years were a series of ups and downs, but I felt God’s presence to some measure.

During my first year in college, I met a girl from Canada, and we really hit it off and spent all our extra time together. We would walk to class and meet for lunch. We were inseparable. At the time, I could not see how Satan was going to use her to draw me into a lifelong battle with homosexuality. After the relationship became sexual though, I felt like something had invaded my body. I was like a zombie walking around campus. I couldn’t eat or sleep. People would ask me what was wrong, but I could not even answer. In the past when I was tempted, I was able to overcome, but not this time. This was very different. The feeling and attraction for this relationship was so strong that I didn’t even try to run away. After the first semester, we moved off campus together and became a secret couple. We were together during my entire college season.

At some point I began to feel very guilty about my new lifestyle. I started to attend a Baptist church and was no longer having an intimate relationship with my partner. She eventually found someone else and we broke up. “Now I am free” or so I thought, but I didn’t realize this isn’t something that just goes away. It’s not a phase. I eventually became involved with another woman, and we too became a couple.

We had tons of fun and enjoyed each other’s company. As the Bible says, “Sin is pleasurable for a season but in the end it leads to death.” I remember sitting in my office with such conviction that I had to immediately tell her, “I can’t do this anymore.” She was devastated. It was a short-lived conviction because shortly thereafter I called, apologized and told her that she was my best friend, and I couldn’t live without her. She came back but with much hesitation and hurt. My flesh was happy but my soul was empty and longing for God, the only one who could fill my void, but I didn’t completely realize that yet. So we resumed our relationship, but it took years for her to feel secure with me again.

Thirteen years into our relationship, a very small spot was noted on a routine x-ray in the left lower lobe of her lungs. The doctor wanted to remove it, so surgery was scheduled and it was positive for cancer. He removed the lobe immediately. He said they caught it very early and didn’t find any other spots so there was no need for any further treatment. We were elated! Then 18 years into our relationship several spots were found in several of her lobes. The prognosis not good and intervention treatments unsuccessful, chemotherapy became the topic of conversation.

During this time, I felt powerless and knew there was only one person who could help us. I felt the nudging of the Holy Spirit and began watching the news instead of all the fantasy shows on TV. The news was the only TRUTH I had in my life. I started reading the Bible and praying for my partner. I asked God to forgive me for my lifestyle; because I knew the entire time I was in the relationship that it was wrong. My friends would ask me if I believed homosexuality was a sin, and I agreed it was, but couldn’t leave my best friend, especially now with her so sick. People ask me now… ‘Did I believe I was saved during all those years of living in sin?’ I can say, “YES!” I know that I was saved the entire time. How can I say that with such assurance? God gives us assurance when we accept Him as our savior. He reigns in our hearts and no matter how far we run from Him, He is always there with open arms. However, I do believe there comes a time when God gives us a last call for repentance. This is clearly what happened to me the night He called me to repent. Also, I believe that the conviction in my heart from the Holy Spirit to change was evidence of my salvation. I tried to suppress that conviction by constantly feeding the flesh and trying to fill the emptiness with partying, success, wealth, accumulating things (buying that dream car and house) and going on exotic vacations. But then all that wears off and you are still left with a void that only one thing can fill–Jesus Christ. He created us with that void and until we find Him, nothing will ever fill it; not fame, wealth or power or any one other person.

My partner and I started going to a Biblical Church called Brookwood. We had received a postcard in the mail and I felt led to go. I asked her if she wanted to attend with me, and to my surprise she agreed. Maybe the Lord would bring us both to Himself. So we attended our first Sunday at Brookwood. We couldn’t believe how big the church was. It even had a bookstore, so we checked it out after the service. We bought a devotional book called Jesus Calling and read it every morning. I was so encouraged! We also noticed another book called Coming out of Homosexuality, and I remember her saying, “I hope they don’t go there, or I am out of here.” She knew at that time where I stood on the subject, but I don’t think she ever wanted to believe it. The relationship had changed though. We had been like only roommates for several years.

After reading the Bible and praying for weeks, I had a divine intervention moment where God spoke to my heart and it was very clear. He said to my heart that it was time for me to turn from my life of sin. “If you do, I will bless you and her. If you don’t it is death for the both of you.” I believe that death was a spiritual and physical death for the both of us. After I encountered God’s clear direction, I remember crying so hard and looking up to Heaven with tears streaming down my face and saying, “There is no way I can do this to my best friend during this critical time in her life. You are going to have to do it!!” My prayer was very simple. “HELP ME JESUS, HELP ME!” I gave it all over to God but also had the faith that He would do it now. I had to put it into action though. I prayed everyday for hours and read my Bible. I would cry myself to sleep. God gave me enough strength to get through one day at a time.

I knew He wanted me to move upstairs to the guest bedroom and that conviction kept getting stronger. I think moving to the upstairs bedroom was the most difficult move in the process, as it was finalization that we were no longer a “couple.” The enemy was strong but God showed me He was much stronger if I relied on Him. There was much pushback from her, but God continually gave me the words to say. She began to do better with her cancer treatments, and I started attending Brookwood Church on a regular basis and even volunteered on the production team. I loved it and found it fascinating. It felt like a call to ministry. I started to grow stronger as the days went by.

She could see the change in me, and I think it scared her. God put it in her heart to leave. I never told her to leave as I let her know I would take care of her as long as she would let me, but I couldn’t be in that lifestyle if God was going to bless us. There were many details to untangle. We had been like a married couple for 18 years; things like taking her name off of the mortgage so that she could buy her own place. During this time, my business wasn’t doing very well so when I called the mortgage company and they asked me my earnings I told them the truth. They said there was no way I could refinance the house on those earnings.

So I prayed about it, and I felt that the Lord was asking me to GIVE HIM EVERYTHING, even the house. I decided to obey and put the house up for sale. After taking pictures and listing it myself, not one offer came in for over two months. I called the mortgage company for the second time hoping we could figure something out, to no avail. I decided to get serious and asked a realtor for help. One thing led to another and I ended up calling the mortgage company for a third time. I got on my knees in my office, hands folded in prayer on my chair and I prayed for God to send me the right person to talk with at the mortgage company. A woman answered, “Hello, this is Angel how can I help you?” At that moment, I knew the Lord was going to work a miracle. I learned that Angel was a Christian so I told her my story and asked about leasing my home. She said that wouldn’t work. I asked her about my options to keep the house and release my ex-partner from the mortgage. She suggested I get a co-signer. I called my brother and my parents and could barely get out the words without crying. They both agreed. I started to cry, I just couldn’t believe it. I called Angel back and after answering some more questions, it turned out that because I had not filed my taxes yet, and because of some loopholes in that, I could indeed refinance my loan without the co-signer. The new payment ended up being significantly lower than the first one. God had really supplied my need in a miraculous way!

That was in 2011 and there have been so many more miracles since that first one. One last miracle that I would like to share is that God laid my ex-partner on my heart in 2012, and I began seriously praying for her. He promised me that she would be healed. She had a series of tests and her doctor told her that she has a rare gene and no longer had to take the IV chemotherapy but instead could take a pill, which was much easier. On May 2, 2014, she posted on FB that she just completed a routine PET Scan and that it was 100% clear and they are taking her off chemo and will do a repeat scan in six months. Praise you Father!

God is faithful. I know this by personal experience. I continue to grow in my church and have now become a part of the Hope for Wholeness Network which is such a blessing to be engaged with so many others like myself that God has redeemed in this way. I’m so glad I heeded his “wake up call.” This new life is not without its challenges. I’m still working through so much, but He is right there with me, daily, making Himself more and more known to me. I wouldn’t trade this new life for anything. I feel more alive than ever!

Dee Barnes Story

Dee BarnesDee Barnes Story

The oldest of three children, I was born in Decatur, Georgia in 1966. My father, though passive, was a faithful provider for the family. My mother, a stay-at-home mom, was a strong, controlling woman. Our somewhat typical family went to the local Presbyterian Church on holidays and a few Sundays each year, but there was no real relationship with Jesus. I was very active in sports, graduated from high school, and spent two years in college.

When I was 14 years old, I was molested by a male neighbor. After becoming involved with pornography, I soon became addicted to playboy magazine and became sexually promiscuous in heterosexual relationships. Later, at 15 years old, I was baptized and joined the church. As I had not heard the gospel of repentance, there was no significant change in my life. Therefore, the sexual promiscuity became worse. At age 19, I became pregnant and had an abortion. Then at age 21, I became involved in a lesbian relationship with a married woman who had two young children. After two years, that relationship ended. At that point, I began to embrace the homosexual lifestyle and frequently attended gay bars.

At age 26, after being introduced to the truth of God in Romans 1, I began to experience conviction concerning my lifestyle. I cried out to God for help. After seeking help by contacting Resurrection Life Ministries in Atlanta, I received counseling and prayer. About a week later I attended a church that preached the full gospel including real repentance. At that time in my life I became a born again believer. I knew that I would never go back to the gay life that I had been living.

I then began a discipleship program in church, but I never told anyone of my homosexual past. My soul was born again, but I had not received the needed healing from the past issues. Born again- this was an absolutely life-transforming experience for me! Born again-birthed from above-this is the foundation of the gospel that Jesus preached. Without it, I believe that no “real” life-changing transformation can happen in the believer. Through genuine repentance from the heart, the seed of God, by the Holy Spirit is planted in the believer of Jesus Christ and our inner man is born again. This process is only the beginning. From that moment on, we are changed from the inside out. Our soul is born again and we begin that process of sanctification as we walk out our relationship with our heavenly Father, through Jesus, by the Holy Spirit. Through this discipleship walk, we begin to receive healing for our wounded places in our soul that cause us to have broken relationships with others. After my first year as a new Christian, God showed me that much healing was needed. I began more in depth counseling with Resurrection Life Ministries for1993-4.

In 1994, I married a wonderful Christian man who had full knowledge of my past before we married. In 1996, I began the discipleship program, Living Waters by Desert Stream ministries and received tremendous healing in so many areas that had previously kept me from having right relationships with others. I continued with Desert Streams as an assistant small group leader and then as a small group leader. I attended two Living Waters weeklong leadership trainings and served as group coordinator for Living Waters during 2003-2005. God used this discipleship program in a mighty way to create a “safe” place for me to be real with my past and receive healing through Jesus. I have continued in praying and discipling others and teaching at local Living Waters and Cross Current programs in the Atlanta area. In 2007, I taught on sexuality in the Discipleship training School for Youth with a mission in Kona Hawaii. In 2008, I became the Ministry Director of His Wonderful Works, Inc. where I currently serve.

My husband and I have been married for 20 years and have three wonderful children, ages 19, 16, and 14. We have been attending the Christ Fellowship Church of Stone Mountain for the past 16 years. My husband and I currently serve on the church leadership team. I believe that in addition to counseling and healing ministry programs, involvement in church fellowship/community is crucial to walking out healing from same sex attraction and in learning to have real healthy relationships with others that does not involve healing group focus.

My mom told me that my father had contracted AIDS through homosexual relations. I could not speak. I was beyond shocked. How could my father who was a deacon at church, the one who led me to the Lord, MY dad, do something like this?

Daughter of The King By Emily Kellogg

Emily KellogI grew up in a Christian and loving home. My dad worked for a Christian company as an editor. My mom worked at the Christian school where my older sister and I attended. I had a wonderful childhood. My family had a lot of fun traditions for the holidays and birthdays. I was always in my dad’s lap and laughing at his jokes. When I was about 4, I noticed that I was not like the rest of my family. Once a month, there was communion served at my church. My family could partake in it, but I couldn’t. I would get so upset that I couldn’t have communion because I didn’t want to be different.

My dad would take me out on dates every other month. We always went to the same restaurant, and we would talk about my school and friends. Even when there was silence, I was comfortable because I knew I had my dad’s undivided attention. One day as we were leaving the restaurant, he asked if I wanted to accept Christ as my personal Lord and Savior. I remember getting very excited and with a huge smile said “YES!” I crawled in his lap, he prayed, and I repeated the prayer. I was almost 6 at the time. I did not think that I could ask for a better life.

Several years later, when I was 9, my life took a traumatic turn. In 1993, my dad became very sick with pneumonia and was in and out of the hospital for a couple of months. I thought he would get better, but he was not fully recovering. In the late spring or early summer of this same year, we had a family meeting. This was our first and only family meeting. My dad told my sister and me that he had AIDS. I had never heard the word before and did not understand what it meant. I had no idea what this would mean for my dad and our family. I knew it was something big when I was told to keep this a secret. This was our first family secret. It was not explained to me at this time how my dad contracted AIDS, and I did not think to ask.

As the months progressed, my dad’s behavior changed. I did not know the details of these next events or the reasons why they happened until many years later. One day we came home from school and there was a man who came out of our bathroom. I was nice to him because I thought he was another one of my dad’s friends who I had not met before. My mom began yelling at him, questioning who he was and what he was doing in our house. At that point, I knew that he was not one of my dad’s friends. My mom took my dad into the bedroom and began yelling at him. I later learned that the man was a hitchhiker my dad brought home. My dad was arrested one night at the mall for having relations in the men’s bathroom. He brought gay pornography into the home. He would hide it in the bathroom that my sister and I shared. Thankfully I never found it. My dad would buy expensive gifts to give my mom which she would return since there was not enough money in the bank for the purchases. I think he bought them as peace offerings for the pain he was causing. My mom continued to notice thousands of dollars missing in the bank account without my dad remembering where the money went or without him wanting to tell my mom what he spent the money on. He would go out to be with numerous men each week. Having AIDS didn’t slow him down. I don’t even want to think how many other men may have been infected because of being with my dad. My mom never knew how many men or how often he was unfaithful. My dad truly was living a second life.
My mom nursed my dad in our home until a week before he died. We did not make it to the hospital in time to be with him at his death. I hate that we were not there to say good-bye. He died with one arm reaching out and his head tilted to the side with his eyes and mouth opened wide. I know he was escorted out of this life into Heaven. He died in 1994 when I was only 10. We never talked about my dad’s death and how it affected us. I was actually relieved that my dad had died. He had not been my dad for several months, and I wanted my life to get back to normal.

I had come to my own conclusion that my dad got AIDS from his IV’s when he was in the hospital with pneumonia. I asked my mom if that was right. My mom then told me that he contracted AIDS through homosexual relations. I froze. Time stood still. I could not think. I could not speak. I could not breathe. I could not move. I was beyond shocked. How could my father, a godly man who led me to the Lord, MY dad, do something like this? I saw NONE of the signs that would lead to this answer. I decided I would stop talking about my dad. It was as if I turned off a switch to “forget” him completely. At that moment, I took all my memories of my dad and locked them up in a steel room, a steel vault in my heart. I completely cut off all emotions and thoughts that had to do with my dad. By shutting them out, I also shut off my personality and lost a lot of memories-the bad and the good of growing up.

Shame from my dad’s behaviors began to control my thoughts and actions. I stopped being me. I became very quiet and withdrawn. I was no longer bubbly or talkative like I had always been. Not feeling accepted at school, I never had any close friends. I also never had a curfew because I never went anywhere. I was always at home. I didn’t have anyone close to talk to about my feelings, and we never shared our emotions in the family…except for anger. I was silently struggling.

At the age of 13, I began contemplating suicide. I no longer wanted to live without a dad. I hated being the only person in my class at school without a dad. I did not want to live with this pain any longer. Every night for many months, I would cry myself to sleep thinking through all the different ways of killing myself. I thank the Lord I never attempted suicide. God showed me that He has been my Father and had not left my side. I knew then that I was not fatherless. To this day, I have not had any suicidal thoughts since that time.

No man has ever come into my life as a father figure since my dad died. My mom has not dated since my dad. I grew to not trust men. Part of that reason is that the only man I knew turned out to be a man I did not know. A man I did not like. A man I could no longer trust. Because of this, I did not think men were honest or trustworthy. I believed they would hurt me if I got close to them. I did not know how to relate to men nor was I comfortable around them. I never had any guy friends and was never asked out. I began to believe that I am unlovable. To this day, I have never been pursued romantically. My image of God was skewed, and I have struggled to believe He truly loves me and wants the best for me. I was afraid He would not show up when I needed Him most, and He would not be who He says He is. I am happy to say that He has been restoring my image of Him. Now I know He is constant. He is always loving. And He is continually pursuing me with His gentle love.

I was referred to Meleah Allard a few years ago for counseling. I have been facing thoughts and memories that I have kept locked up for nearly 20 years. I am learning that I have been living through a shame-based identity. I wanted to be invisible and had no self-esteem. I believed that because my dad’s actions brought shame to the family, and I am a product of my dad, then there was something shameful about me. I had this huge secret I could not tell anyone, so I could not let anyone know who I truly was. I continued to feel that I had to act as if nothing happened…and keep the family secret.

I am on a journey toward healing, but I still have a long road ahead of me and much more to learn. God has placed a desire on my heart to help others who are hurting. I have become a family counselor to help walk along side those who are in need of support. I am educating families on how to communicate effectively with one another and talk about their emotions without burying them inside. God is redeeming my pain for His glory by using me mightily to further His Kingdom in the lost world.

God has built a group of trusted people around me to walk in this journey together. He is teaching me how to walk in victory which has made all the difference. The shame I was carrying around has reduced as I share my story with others. I’m grateful I don’t have to walk alone anymore, and I know I can rely on God in every circumstance.

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