Drugs and alcohol did not destroy my life or that of my family; anger, fear, poor choices and not having a relationship with God did. My mom and dad divorced when I was two. My mom remarried when I was four and it was a difficult transition for my older brother and sister as they had anger from our parents’ divorce. My dad worked for the railroad and he moved around and he too got remarried. I grew up wondering why I was not good enough to keep my dad, and why he wanted another family instead of the one he had. It was no longer just the three siblings but it grew to be eleven children with stepsiblings and half siblings. I found security at both sets of grandparents’ homes.
My home life at my mom’s was not good. My sister and brothers acted out and there were times where I would sit under the table and watch the fights, hoping to be invisible. Police came to our house and there were holes in our walls. I went through a time of having severe stomach aches and I realize now that it was from the stress of our chaotic life.
My parents would try to talk to work out visitation but it generally resulted in fighting and there were several custody battles. We saw our dad about six weeks out of the year, which was not enough to really get to know him. I felt torn between two families. I grew close to my stepdad but then felt like I was betraying my dad. In middle school I was very small for my age and was picked on by the boys in my class. I listened to the lie that I was worthless and ugly. Rejection resounded in my heart as well as fear. At night time I would often get frozen in fear, and at times had to call my mom to help me break out of it.
My mom, sister, and I went to an Ozark National Life Insurance convention in St. Louis in 1999. My mom decided to come up to Heartland, since we were in Missouri, to go to church on Sunday. After talking with Pastor Charlie and Laurie, my sister decided to stay at Heartland. I know that decision literally saved her life and set a lot of healing in motion with my family. Shortly after being back at Heartland she was diagnosed at sixteen years old with cancer. My family started coming down often for her chemo and surgeries. During this time I started feeling very drawn to Heartland. I felt loved and accepted by the girls that lived with my sister. And I knew there was something different at Heartland. At this point I started asking my mom if I could move to Heartland. She finally agreed to let me move in August of 2000. Heartland was a refuge that I needed so I could get to know God and so He could heal my heart.
Life did not get better just because I came to Heartland. My sister got better and then got sick again. My family still had a lot of issues to deal with. I still battled fear and rejection. Some issues came to light that I had to discuss with my mom and stepdad and I thought it would tear my family apart. I had people in Heartland that helped walk with me through those difficult times. And I saw how much I needed God. God turned my dysfunctional life upside down.
I graduated from Heartland Christian Academy in 2004 and then went to Heartland Christian College, graduating in 2006. My husband Joe and I were married in 2007, and we have three children, a little girl who is four and twin boys who are three. I work at Heartland Christian Academy in the administrative department, substitute at HCA on occasion, and get to help teach a ballet class for three to five years old children.
My life is rich in happiness and part of that is due to Heartland, because Heartland is where I met Jesus. God has really healed my family. Now my siblings and I get together at my mom’s and we laugh and talk. I do not get to see my dad as often because of schedules but we try to call each other and our relationship is improving. My kids are being raised in a godly environment and they have a healthy home life.