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Life of Distractions Gives Way to True Value

Tina says, “It was always after something horrible happened.  I would say, "I need to go play Into the Woods" and she would know.  Or vice versa.”

Tina and her twin sister played their game of make believe often – one pretending to be lost, the other coming to her rescue.  More than a game, it was an escape from a sexually and physically abusive sibling.   

Tina continues, “It was very confusing.  Because as a little kid you have really no idea what's going on.  As you get a little older, ‘This-this this isn't right.  Something's-something's wrong here.’  And you start to think that you are just trash and that you're not worth anything.”   

Tina grew up in a poor neighborhood in California, with a single mother of five.  She hardly knew her father.  Their mother neglected them, and the only attention she gave came through harsh discipline.

Tina says, “I just remember being sad all the time.  It's like ‘Where is that love?’  You get up every day and you're a shell of a person, there's nothing to look forward to.”  

The one time Tina worked up the nerve to say something about the abuse, her mother did nothing about it.

Tina says, “It is the ultimate betrayal and it is almost as though ‘that's it.’  If your own mother won't defend you or try and do something about it, it confirms in your mind that you are worthless.”  

The sexual abuse stopped, when Tina stood up to her abuser at age 10.  But the chaos and physical abuse at home continued.  At 13 she downed a bottle of aspirin, trying to escape the pain.  When that failed, she turned to promiscuity, drugs, and alcohol.    

She remembers, “It was like, ‘Oh my gosh, this thing is – I’m numb, when-when I'm doing this.’  I was much more free.  I was able to laugh.  Um, things became funny.”  

At 16, with no ambitions or hope for her future, she dropped out of school.  And at 18 she married a physically and verbally abusive man.  

She recalls, “The day we got married, something sort of broke in me and I-I remember just breaking down and crying.  The people that were there thought ‘Oh, she's so happy, she's crying.’  That's not why I was crying.  I was crying because I felt like I had sealed my fate.  It's like, ‘Well, this is the best I can do.’  This is what I'm good for is to be abused."  

They moved to the East coast to be closer to her husband’s family.  After earning her GED and landing a job in banking, Tina poured herself into her work.

She says, “I would go to work and I would do an excellent job because I wanted that praise.  My bosses always loved me and uh so that became my new drug, my new escapism.”  

Afraid her husband would hurt her if she tried to leave, she endured the marriage.  After nine years, two of her sisters gave her the courage – and a plane ticket – to leave and fly back to California.  But soon she was back to finding escape through drugs and unhealthy relationships.    

She explains, “At this point I'm still trying to fill myself with something.  And all this other stuff over here to the left is not working.  It works temporarily but it wears off.”  

In her 30s, Tina decided to volunteer at a local church’s ministry, thinking that helping others might fill the void.  She even began attending Sunday services on occasion.  Then one morning, she woke up feeling a darkness she’d never felt before.

She says, “There was something that came on me.  It felt like an oppression. And I had been depressed before, so I knew what that felt like.  This was very different. I woke up with it, uh I was at work with it, and it was-it really is hard to describe because it is such a dark place.”  

The feeling got worse, and she decided to go to a women’s Bible study.  The study was on the book of James.

Tina says, “Because this darkness, this oppression was so severe uh I said, ‘I've got to try it.  I have to try something, I'm desperate.’  This darkness is on me even though I’m opening the Bible up.  They ask me to read.  And I'm thinking, ‘Oh, my gosh, okay.’  So as soon as I start reading James, that oppression went away.  And that darkness never came back.”  

Wanting to know more, she started digging into the Bible for answers.  One night she arrived early to bible study, and noticed a scripture reference on the board.

Tina recalls that moment, “’Oh, Jeremiah 29:11.  Okay.’  Uh, so I looked it up.  And it was like that was written for me.  "I know the plans that I have for you, declares the Lord, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, to give you a hope and a future."  And I thought, ‘Oh my gosh, You really are pursuing me.’”  

Finally she understood that her only hope would come through salvation in Jesus Christ.  Soon after, she made a decision.

She explains, “All that stuff that happened to me in the past, He's renewed me uh as His daughter.   And what Jesus did on the cross, Him going step-by-step, carrying that cross for us, it hit me in that moment and I fell down on my knees.  ‘Jesus, no matter what happens in this life and no matter what has happened in this life, You're it.  You're it for me.  You're that thing that I've been searching for for so long.’”

After giving her life to Christ, she realized she still needed to heal from her past.  She sought counseling from a Christian therapist, and asked God for help.  

Tina says, “I remember my first counseling appointment, and I said, ‘Jesus, please come with me.’   Well, He was already there, but, uh, "Hold my hand.  I need for You to hold my hand going in here.”

As she grew in her faith, Tina overcame the hurt from her past.  She now works with victims of human trafficking, and has plans to open a women’s shelter.   She says that Jesus took away all of her pain and gave her purpose instead.  

She says, “He's using what I went through to help women now uh that don't know Him, uh that don't feel that they have value or worth.  And I'm there to say that you do.  You absolutely do.”

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