My story isn't one that I have ever been ashamed to share. It is in no way anything I have ever feared talking about it either. It isn't just about me but in fact a story about how God has always been in the tiny threads of the fabric of my life. A blanket that I have used to cover and protect me when things became tough or when I have felt all alone or needed comfort in life's storms.
I guess I should start at the first part of my life that I remember where it started. At age 5, my mom was expecting my baby brother, her sixth child, when my father passed away. Looking back I cannot even begin to fathom the fear she felt and the emptiness she carried when she was faced with having to care for six children on her own. I believe it was then that I think she became my idol. For some unknown reason I had it placed in my head that I wanted to be everything like her. Strong, beautiful and caring. Such a good mom at that time. I believe when something that tragic, like losing your soulmate, happens it can have such an impact on even the strongest of people. For my mom things became very hard to deal with and circumstances changed. My mother needed help.
Some of the memories I recall at that age were things like going to church with my grandmother. Reciting the Catholic prayers, mimicking the stand up, sit down and kneel motions in mass and trying to be like everyone except myself.
For a brief time we were separated as a family. My siblings and I were divided up amongst our relatives and were taken care of by aunts and uncles. My mother had too heavy of a load to carry and needed to cope with things that were indirect reflections of losing our father. I missed my mother so much during that time. I tried so hard to remember things about her so that I wouldn't forget how I wanted to be like her. I don't know where or why I thought it but I remember thinking her favorite scripture was Psalms 23. At that time I had no idea what the scripture said but if it was her favorite, then by golly it was going to be mine too. Oh how God had just placed the first stepping stone in the path of my life.
My mom eventually remarried, we were placed back in her care and our childhood was anything but what you could even think came close to ideal. Out of respect to my family and those who it might hurt, I don't need to share any of the pain or hurt that came along with having a step parent. All I need to say is I so longed for a loving father. A role model. A guide or teacher to help me understand things you would face when things got tough in life.
I married my first boyfriend and became a mom myself at a very young age. Having never seen what a good marriage was like, I had no guidance to lead me into what being a wife was about. We were two kids growing up raising kids of our own. It was a recipe for disaster before we even got started. My divorce was very hard to deal with. Not knowing where to go, how I would make it on my own with two small children to raise became a stress and emotional burden I physically couldn't handle. Your body has a strange way of protecting you and keeping memories and nightmares at bay. When it knows it is strong enough to face them, it allows you to bring pieces of that pain out in tiny increments so that you can deal with it and work through them. Little did I know a whole lot of that pain was bottled up inside me and was about to burst out very soon.
I am very proud to say I never turned to drugs or alcohol at any point in my life. In fact I have never liked taking any medication unless I had to. At the age of 21 as I was going thru my divorce and was emotionally and physically worn out. I went to see a doctor and I was given three different medications. I don't even remember what I was being treated for. Looking back I can only recall two of the medications I was given. To this day I refuse to take either of them again.
I remember bits and pieces of that day. I remember seeing the doctor and filling my prescriptions. From that point it's a bit of a blur. I know that I went home to lay down and rest. In my mind that's all I thought I did but the events afterwards obviously were different. I woke up in a hospital bed three days later from a drug overdose. I had taken every pill In both bottles and drank every bit of whatever liquid medication I was given too. It was too late to pump my stomach and I still don't know what they did to save me. All I know is that I was in the darkest hole of my life and I needed help. This is where God placed every brick and every stone that laid the foundation of my faith and and where I was given strength to face any and every situation in my life from that point on.
While I was in the coma, I vividly remember looking down. All I could see was the darkest and deepest hole. I knew I was looking into hell. In my dream I was so alone. I recalled hearing voices and knew that all I had to do was ask for help. I could see a tiny step when I looked up and at that moment I said, Lord, I need you! Please help me!" During that moment I felt my body roll over and at the same time in my dream (coma) I looked up and saw a huge hand reach down to lift me up. There was a beautiful bright glow around the hand and I saw God's face. I rolled over in my bed and reached for His hand. As I did, I woke up in my hospital bed and there beside me was a Baptist preacher reading me scripture...yes, you guessed it, Psalms 23" "Yea tho I walk thru the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil for thou art with me.."
At that very moment I knew that what I thought was my moms scripture was in fact my scripture. I knew from that day forward nothing would come my way that I couldn't handle. God was with me, God was in me, God was for me!
Looking back I can't imagine that I ever felt so weak that I would intentionally try to take my life but obviously I did. I get so frustrated when people say that suicide is the easy way out. That it's a selfish thing to do. Unless you've been there or carried that demon personally, it hurts me to think that people can be so cruel. Obviously I felt alone and maybe trying to take my life was the toughest decision I ever made. I try not to think about the whys or what ifs, God didn't have me go thru that trial to sit there and relish in it. He guided me thru the storm with grace so that I could learn from it and to also be sensitive to those I have seen suffer with burdens of their own.
I believe with my whole heart that God has given me a discernment to recognize when people are facing things they can't deal with. It has happened on more than one occasion that I have asked people if they were okay, and in my reaching out they have opened up to me and shared what they were going through. In each of those situations they have let me know later that they had contemplated ending their lives but because I reached out and shared my story, they changed their minds! God's grace in action.
When I pray each day for God to use me, I always know when He is about to. I get goosebumps, I call them Godbumps. I feel them every time when I know God is about to use me. I breathe in and pray and let Him take over. I ask for the right words and then it just happens. It might just be a hug that the other person needs, it might just be a simple compliment but whatever it is, I allow Him to work through me.
It amazes me how such a simple act of compassion can help heal someone who needs it. I often wondered on that day back when I was 21 and all alone, what if just one person told me I was beautiful or reached out to hug me, would I have changed my mind in doing what I did. Again, I try not to dwell in the what ifs because obviously it was written in my story to be just as it was. Another one of my favorite scriptures is 1 Thessalonians 5:18: "In all things give thanks".
Even in the bad stuff, I try to remember to thank God because without the trials I wouldn't be as prepared for all the glory that follows. My story isn't about me, it is about His glory, His grace.
I know that is why I had to go through the fiery furnace myself and allow God to use me. Trust me, I can't say that there have not been times that I haven't felt weak and wanted to give up. I have had to stand strong against friends and family who have hurt me deeply. I have had to let go of things I knew would never change. I had to "Let Go and Let God" carry my pain on more than one occasion. During those dark times I still pulled thru because in tiny ways God would show me those very words in the scripture He gave me.
I have turned and seen Psalms 23 in a picture on the wall when a friend was in the hospital. I have seen the letters Ps23 on license plates when I was struggling during another time. Recently, I lost control on the ice on my way home. I was upset I damaged my car but I knew it could have turned out worse. The next day when I went to work and flipped my calendar, Psalms 23 was the devotion on that day.
I know without a doubt He is my Shepherd, and His rod and staff will always comfort me as long as I do my part. He will always lead me to still waters, He will prepare a table before my enemies, my soul is always restored and I know one day I will dwell in His house forever.
If life is ever too much of a burden to face, I would hope that if any scripture at all could guide you thru it; it would be Psalms 23. Just rest in His words and allow Him to lead you. The waters will become calm, the storm will pass. Trust me, I'm living proof. This lost and lonely Catholic child was placed in the path of a Baptist preacher over 32-years-ago, and He's not finished with me yet.