This is the third article in our new series called “Every Heart has a Story to Tell.” As we head towards our first Thrive Conference in October, our desire is share how Every Story Matters. Please check back each week to see how God is moving in women’s lives and let us know how he’s moving in yours.
“Your own parents don’t want you, so why do you think we’d want you?” is the question that for too many years played on repeat in Sara’s mind. Imagine being in high school and hearing that question from the girl competing against you for a position in a school club. Words – they can pierce like a knife.
Sara’s life was filled with pain long before those words were even uttered. When her parents divorced she was left with an absentee father and a mother who brutally abused and burned her. In the summer of her 5th grade year, her aunt took her to church where she heard the “hellfire and brimstone” pastor preach, “If you don’t believe in Jesus, you’ll go to hell.” All Sara’s little ten-year-old mind could think about was how much pain she felt from cigarette burns inflicted by her mother. She didn’t want to hurt forever so she gave her life to Jesus and was baptized that night. Her relationship with Christ, although founded in a very wounded heart, had begun. The issues of her life remained, but deep down, Sara knew God was always there, nudging her closer to him.
It was Sara’s high school track coach who noticed her constant burns and called Child Protective Services to look into it. Soon, Sara was moved into the foster care system. By the time she was 16-years-old she’d been pregnant twice. It was the late 70’s and Roe vs. Wade had recently allowed women the option to abort. In Sara’s case, however, abortion wasn’t optional; it was forced upon her by her social worker. The aftermath of the abortions sent Sara into a depression that wouldn’t lift until 2007, 30 years later.
Sara’s 18th birthday coincided with her high school commencement and because she had aged out of foster care, Sara had nowhere to go. She sought out various family members hoping there would be someone who could provide her with a home that looked more like the “Waltons” than hell. When that dream died she looked for love the only way she knew how to find it – in the arms of men. Once again Sara found herself pregnant but this time she didn’t even entertain the idea of an abortion. She refused to go through the mental pain and anguish of yet another stolen pregnancy.
Sara’s desire was to avoid using welfare or food stamps but she also realized her baby girl needed food to eat, clothes to wear, and a safe place to live. By now Sara was involved with a church and some of the men in her church (yes, you read that correctly) exchanged time with her to help her pay her bills! Sometimes the men just wanted to go out for dinner, enjoy her companionship, and be seen with a beautiful woman; other times they wanted sex. Sara knew what she was doing was wrong, but by now her self-esteem was buried deep in a pit and she enjoyed the idea of men wanting to be with her. “It’s the only lifestyle I’m worthy of,” Sara reasoned.
The words still played in her mind, “Your own parents don’t want you, why do you think we’d want you?”
Eventually Sara married the first man who proposed to her. She didn’t love him but again figured it was the best she deserved. The mind can be a terrible liar. Sara’s husband turned out to be a drug runner and Sara regularly indulged in drugs, liquor, and cigarettes. It was after her divorce, Sara said, that she “cleaned up her act a bit.”
The next man she met was an upstanding guy and when he proposed to her she thought, “Who would ever marry someone like me?” Never feeling worthy of her life, she struggled with depression and threatened suicide on a regular basis. When she looked at her life through her own guilt and pain she saw herself as “wounded, a victim, and a bitch.” She had no idea that God saw her as adventurous, creative, loving, and beautiful.
When her marriage of 17 years was falling apart Sara formed an extensive plan for taking her life. She thought no one would miss her and it would be best for everyone. It was then that she entered the Minirth-Meier (now Meier) Clinic as her last hope. Her divorce papers arrived while she was an inpatient and when family members refused to visit, she was left feeling abandoned and unworthy.
Sara’s therapist at Mineirth-Meier gave her one assignment: every day look in the mirror and say, “I love you.” “I hated it,” Sara recalls. But, after 60 days, she looked in the mirror and said, “I love you and I like you, too.” That statement surprised her so much that she looked in the mirror again and said, “I really DO like you!”
In the ensuing months, and now years, Sara has learned to see herself through God’s eyes as a woman made in his image. She still has times when she hears those old words that pierced her so deeply but now she has a new tape running in her brain, “I am the image of a perfect God.”
Sara hasn’t forgotten what it’s like to feel those emotions and she uses that information to help others. She fills her mind with words of life because she knows change comes from the inside out, through a relationship with Christ Jesus. He speaks life!
Whose words are you allowing to feed your soul?
“Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.” Romans 12:2a
If you’ve enjoyed Sara’s story, you might like to read others in our “Your Story Matters” series: #1 – Michelle’s Story, #2 Carolyn’s Story , #4 – Jolene’s Story, #5 – Mabel’s Story, #6 – Carolyn T’s Story
Nancy loves to laugh and considers laughter a critical part of human survival. If you were to ask, most days she would say her glass is half full but when it starts reaching the half-empty level, she reaches for a funny book or movie knowing that indeed “A cheerful heart is good medicine.” Nancy has three married sons and five grandchildren. To read more from Nancy find her at www.nancyholte.com.