Well, Sara and I are off to the airport and an overnight flight to Washington, DC where we’ll attend the President’s Prayer Breakfast with the whole Shack team as well as hook up with other brothers and sisters in the area. It promises to be a lot of fun and all the more because Sara is going too!
But I’m going to leave you with a wonderful surprise. Some letters I get just blow me away. ‘Melanie’ sent me her story last week and I think you’ll be blessed to read of the depths of pain that bondage can drag us into and Father’s amazing ability to find us even in those depths. (I have changed some of the details to disguise her identity)
I am writing this email to tell you how much I enjoy all of Lifestream and listen to you and Brad on The God Journey podcast every week. I love the freedom that I am able to live in even when those around me do not understand what it is!
I look at my life today and realized how blessed I am and I give all the glory to Father. I have a beautiful daughter. I have an awesome career ahead of me! I am in the best shape physically that I have ever been. I have an awesome family – a mom and dad who have always been there for me – even when I didn’t want them to be. They were wise and loving enough to give me the freedom to learn the hard way but were there to help me heal when I discovered how hard the life I chose was. I have an older brother who is my bestest friend! This life of mine today is so different than the way it was headed just over 3 years ago. Let me start at the beginning.
I am a US Navy brat! My dad was Navy; Uncles were Navy, a Grandfather in Navy! Brother is in Navy! I saw through my eyes how perfect those people were. And with this all around me, I put expectations on myself that I could never achieve! Don’t ask me how I did that – I really don’t know! I was never satisfied or content with myself no matter what I did or how well I did it. I worked hard in school academically, socially and extra-curricularly. I was involved in gymnastics, dance, swimming and captain of the cheerleading drill team. I strove to achieve and I did – but it was never good enough! It was never good enough for me!
Unfortunately, in 11th grade, I started going out with a guy who lived two lives. He was also six years older than me. He was heavily involved in the drug trade in Southern California. I ended up getting pregnant. Out of the shame, I ran away thinking I would get kicked out anyway. Thinking I would be able to move in with my boyfriend, I ran to him and found out he didn’t want a pregnant teenager on his hands. I left there with a broken heart and more shame and disgust with myself. I stayed with some friends and was basically giving myself away to whoever would have me. At six and a half months pregnant, I was gang raped and beat and left for dead. In and out of consciousness, my daughter was delivered prematurely. She was three months old before I came to consciousness enough to realize I was a mommy.
My parents were there to help me. I didn’t feel I deserved their help, so I escaped with my daughter on my own again. I answered an advertisement for a talent agency that was looking for girls with dancing talent and an open mind. I went to the interview and was told I would be perfect for the performing they had in mind. The word perfect stuck in my brain! Something I was perfect for! I took the two-week crash course on being an exotic dancer. The first few performances were raw and hard. I only had to go topless and in a g-string, but it was so far removed from normal behavior for me, I was shocked at myself to how I loved the attention I received. Within three months, I had clubs asking for me by name. Within six months, I had become a feature dancer. In the area, this was simply unheard of. All this attention fueled my need to be the best. I was beginning to make lots of money and lots of perks. I was able to hire a nanny for my daughter who traveled with us all over North America.
I began to get pressured to perform in films. I refused these requests. The pressure intensified until it came to a point where I hated what I was doing. Unbeknownst to me, I was actually in breach of contract because I was refusing to perform in porn films. One night I was visited by a couple of gentlemen who informed me that they basically owned me. I didn’t know what to do. I finally said yes to do a film with them, but the first day of filming, I couldn’t do it. I was beat up pretty badly by my ‘agent’.
I took a contract to perform in Canada for a while to escape the pressure. My daughter was with me and we were having a good time, money was coming in good and I was becoming well known. My agent informed me that I could appease people by posing for some magazines. When I found out I did not have to have sex to be in the magazine, just full nudity, I agreed. In my mind at the time, that was far better. I did eight photo shoots, which ended up being in euro-mags. Little did I realize, I was falling deeper into the pit.
Just after my 22nd birthday, I was coming offstage at a club in Vancouver Canada, when these three girls about my age came up to me with a dozen roses and a basket of personal care products. They gave it to me with a message of “Jesus loves you and so do we.” I burst into tears and escaped to my dressing room. I had grown up in a church going home and new the truths in the Bible. This event flooded my brain with all the fond memories I had as a child learning about God and Jesus from my mom and dad. I immediately got on the phone and called home. They told me I was always welcomed home!
I started packing our belongings when my agent came into my hotel room. He informed me that I cannot just walk away from these contracts. He told me basically I had to fulfill every last detail to their satisfaction before they would consider releasing me. I was trapped. I continued performing but hating it once again. I found escape in chatting with some wonderful people in Christian chat rooms. Though I didn’t know anyone really, I poured out my heart and circumstances to a few people who began to pray for me. In the meantime, these three girls continued coming to this club to see me. I agreed to go for a coffee with them. They just shared the love of the Father with me and how much He loves me. They said they knew I had a relationship with God by how I responded to their first visit.
At this same time, my brother discovered where I was and what was going on. He and some people of the congregation he was involved with assembled enough finances to free me from my obligations. I was free!
So much has happened since then even. I took courses to get my personal fitness trainer certifications and began working. My daughter and I got to really know one another. I call her my miracle child. If it wasn’t for her, I don’t know if I would still be here. I don’t even know why I told you all of this.
Anyway, I didn’t start going to “church” right away. I just read the gospels over and over again discovering who Jesus is. Wow! He is something else. I am so glad I did that as I dont know if I could have loved the God of the old testament without first seeing who he is in Jesus. Anyway, I started visiting “church” congregations to become totally confused and frustrated. I became anxious and unsure of who I was as a Christian, or if I even was one. My brother had recently visited your website and emailed me the link. Wow! Thank you so much. I listened, I read, I compared to what I was reading in the bible and am confident I am right where father wants me. I have talked to some people about it and they say I am apostate which made me smile because yes, I have left religion!
I just finished reading “The Shack” which totally blew me away. Wow. Father was there with me through all of what I went through. I certainly identify with Mack when he realized that he did love papa and did trust papa.
Now it is 2008 and I am just loving this life Father leads me in. Of course, like everyone, I still have issues. Biggest issue I have right now is with men. I don’t know how I will ever really be able to trust a man to have a healthy relationship. But, I do know when Father knows I am ready, we will cross that bridge together. For now, it is my daughter and I and we love hanging out. I am able to keep busy working as a fitness trainer. This will be season two of competing in triathlons and I love getting together with my folks and brother who all love Father who has brought us together the way he has.
I guess I tell you all this to tell you thanks for making a difference in me. You and Brad have an awesome podcast. I send the link to The God Journey to everyone I email and tell everyone I know.
I just love hearing how Father pulls people out of darkness and restores them with life and with joy. No one is too far out of reach for God to rescue! Thanks to this dear young woman for sharing her story with me, and now with all of you!