(It was a night I will never forget. As long as I live I will remember the fear, the horror that I experienced that night. It is a memory that has caused a lot of pain for many years but now I am starting to realize that it is something that I must NEVER, NEVER forget. The pain was all a part of the plan. Now, I cherish it for I know that God handpicked me to do many things in this life. I also know that the timeline he created for me was all on purpose. Some would say that God never meant for that night to happen, I disagree. This is who I am. This is who I have become and that one night began a whole new journey for me and God. Today I am not the same girl, my circumstances are not the same, my life is not anything like it used to be. But one thing I know for sure is my God is still the same. He has been my Lord and Savior for fifteen years now and I long to live for Him. I long for my life to be a living testimony of what the blood of Jesus Christ is TRULY all about. So today I want to introduce you to Mandi. As I share her story, my story, I know God will bring about healing to my life and maybe yours too.)
When my parents divorced, I lived with my Dad for a couple of years. From the time I was born and somewhat still today, my Dad has always been an injured man. Many of us are injured but many of us also seek rehabilitation. He has not. While he has changed and become more tolerable and normal, he is still at times the very same Dad I have always had. Today I love him. I care for him deeply and I cannot imagine my life without him. My children adore him and he adores them. My Dad would give us everything if he could. He gives us money almost every week, not because we ask but because he loves us and he wants to give. Next year when I put Ava Beth in a combo dance class at a Dance studio down the street, he will pay for it. When Josiah plays soccer, he will pay for it. That's what he wants to do and we let him. We don't mind the help! At one time in my life he never kept his word. I can remember at least a hundred times he said he would do something and didn't do it. That particular bad trait has now changed. He follows through and keeps his word. I never thought I would see the day but I have. Even though he has done so many things to redeem himself for all the years he hurt me, it is still very hard. Just this past weekend I was angry with him. I did not want to talk to him, see him or have anything to do with him. He hurt me. It wasn't intentional, it was just his old behavior coming back and showing it's ugly face. I can't help but to remember the past when this happens. I can't help but think of Mandi, the sad little girl that longed to have a Daddy. The little girl that dreamt of having a Daddy to hold her, protect her and love her. A Daddy she could trust, a Daddy she could count on. Some days I grieve for Mandi. Now as a woman, as I refer to myself as Amanda, I sometimes wish I could be Mandi all over again. Maybe if I had the eyes of Amanda and the body and mind of Mandi, everything would change. Mandi would know she is loved. She would know her true value. But then I am reminded of the precious testimony Amanda has! God can use the pain and heartache of Mandi to show this woman Amanda, how she has been loved and treasured her whole life.
I was twelve years old living with my Dad who was also a severe alcoholic. If you know anything about alcoholism then you know there is a term called "Functioning Alcoholic." Well my Dad was not a functioning alcoholic. His alcoholism kept him from having a job so we had nothing. Since he was unable to keep a job, he was unable to pay monthly bills. As a result, our electricity was cut off and stayed off for three months. I didn't tell anyone, especially not my mom. In fact, I hated my Mom. I blamed her for everything. I was so wrapped up in taking care of my Dad and feeling sorry for my Dad that I blamed her. It wasn't her fault, I know that now. But I did everything I could to hide things from her in fear of being taken away from him. My Dad told me just about every single night that if I did not live with him, he would kill himself. He was so out of his mind that I believed him. During all of this, I learned to be a fighter. I am still a fighter. If you hurt me, I will fight every ounce of my being to not hurt you back. That sounds harsh but I had to protect myself daily and when I feel like someone is trying to hurt me, my first instinct is to hurt them first. But the awesome thing about Jesus is how he changes us. I may struggle with wanting to fight or wanting to hurt someone before they hurt me, but the Lord keeps me from doing it. That bad behavior has been rebuked so many times that I know what to do when I see it coming! Praise the Lord! But the point is this, I had to fight for myself constantly. My Dad would come home drunk every single night. Since I did not have electricity, I was scared of the dark a lot. I was also very scared of loosing my Dad. What if he died in a car wreck, what if he did not come home that night? But somehow he always made it home and always made my life a living hell until finally he would pass out and sleep.
One particular night he had been out drinking and came home very angry. When he was angry he would talk bad about my mother. He would tell me that she did not love me and that she hated me. It hurt me, it hurt me a lot. Finally I got tired of hearing him say that so much, I decided to stick up for my Mom. "I know why she left you Dad! You are mean, you are crazy! Why would anyone want to be with you?" At that point he threw me into a wall by grabbing one of my hands. The ring finger on my right hand was broken. I have a very bad habit of popping my knuckles and that is the one finger I am unable to pop without experiencing pain. So when I do pop it, I am instantly reminded of that night. After throwing me into the wall, he then opened the sliding glass door in our apartment and shoved me outside. He closed the sliding glass door, locked it and did not return for several hours. The only thing I was wearing was a underwear and a long t-shirt of his. I never had pajamas. It's funny because I am obsessed with my children having pajamas. This has a lot to do with why. I guess I feel like my kids having pajamas makes me normal today. I never had Pajamas but I always wanted them. The night I spent on the patio was difficult. It was thirty degrees that night. I remember how cold it was because I remember being inside the apartment without electricity and freezing underneath blankets. Now I was outside with nothing but a t-shirt. I don't think that there was a time in my life that I cried harder than the night I spent on that patio. A while back I took my husband to those apartments, I showed him the patio I sat on. It was hard to do but it was something that needed to be done. I can't say I found any healing or comfort by going back but I did find joy in knowing how much I survived as a child. So maybe I did find healing. That night in the cold, sitting on the patio, all curled up in the t-shirt, I talked to God a lot. I told him how this wasn't fair. I learned early on that it was okay for me to be mad at God. I could say whatever I wanted, He was still there. During that horrible night, I learned how to hear the voice of God. I learned how to experience His comfort. It was then I learned that I was a fighter and that God was going to use me someday to help others that had been hurt. So I thank Him for that night. I truly thank Him!
There were many more nights to come. None seem to effect me as much as that night but many more events took place that brought deep fear and pain into my life. My Dad locked me out again and threw my Bible down the stairs outside our apartment. He also got a butcher knife out and made me watch him cut into his arm. When I see him, I try to never look at his forearms. I don't want to see those scars. I know that he must live in horrible guilt every time he sees the scars on his arm so I never mention it. He has paid for his sin, I think he pays for it daily. Who am I to bring it up? We have had many conversations about the past. He knows the pain he has caused. He lives with it. A few months ago he told me that the night he threw my bible down the stairs was haunting him. The Lord gave me an awesome moment with my Dad. "Dad, let it go. Don't carry those thoughts with you anymore. Satan wants to remind you. I have forgiven you. It's gone! Forget it!" My Dad cried when I said that. It was a moment God gave me to truly show God's love to my Dad. My Dad is saved, I am so grateful for that. He doesn't always live a life of joy, he's usually upset about something. But he loves God, I know he does.
Since having children I have grieved my childhood a lot. As I read other women's blogs and I learn about their childhoods and the loving homes they lived in, I hurt. At times I even get a little mad but then God reminds me that all of the pain I endured was for a purpose. The pain has become my pearls! This is what God has used to show me how much He loves me. Friends, let me tell you something, God has got big plans for my life. I am not being boastful or proud, I am just telling you that He is going to use this. My dreams of standing before women and speaking about what God has done and what He can do for them, my dreams of standing before thousands of women and sharing with them how they can find freedom in JESUS, it will come true. The Lord will use this for HIS kingdom! I wouldn't trade that pain for anything in this world! Mandi isn't just a little girl named after a Barry Manilow song (yes, it's true!), she's girl that had purpose and now God has freed her up to show others how to be free themselves.
Mandi has a story to tell and now I am privileged, honored and blessed to be the one chosen to share it.
(Click here. On the first page you will see a list of films/videos at the bottom. Choose RAIN. Watch the the film, not the clip. It's only 11minutes. Someone showed this video to me about a year ago and it changed my life. Today as I wrote this blog entry, I watched this video again. It is powerful and it reminded me of how precious my pain is.)