"God gave me a second chance at a family, a marriage. My hope is to inspire women that no matter what you go through, no matter what someone tells you, that it is possible. God can take all of the pain, all of the losess and turn it around for something magnificent for His glory."
Second Chances Events
The next live broadcast is scheduled for May 2016. Date and guest announcements will be announced soon!
Celebrating Second Chances with Overcomers
In 2014, Robin Roberts joined Pat as a guest and over 500 women joined the live broadcast which was viewed by over 100,000. #TYSC was a trending topic and this 2 hour event was the most watched on Google/Youtube during its time slot.
Building Bridges for Second Chances
In February, 2016 at the Potter’s House Dallas, 250 women attended and were showered with home goods provided by major retailers such as At Home, Beauty Controls, Sam Moon and Under Armour.
Two women who were impacted by the December, 2015 North Texas tornado received a second chance surprise with new furnishings for their new homes, groceries, pampering and clothing for their children and grandchildren.
Treasure You partnered with non-profits MegaCare (Potter’s House) and the Dallas Furniture Bank.
My Second Chance Story Series
Pat has been touched by the Second Chance stories of others. Here are some she has chosen to share with her readers, hoping others will find inspiration in the perseverance and overcoming of life’s challenges.
The inspiration behind the #TYSC series came from Smith’s Second Chances event on Jan. 18, when social media and second chances came together to celebrate overcomers.
Overcoming her own setbacks and adversity, Smith believes everyone deserves a second chance in life. She says her “trials are hidden treasures” and is sharing her experiences with men and women across the country to help them find a renewed sense of power and purpose.
We would love to hear your Second Chance Story
Feel free to write us and tell us about your journey and second chance. If your story is chosen to be published here, Pat will send you a copy of her Second Chances book.
One morning as I toweled off getting out of the shower, a mole on my right ankle began to bleed. Immediately, I made an appointment with the dermatologist who removed the mole. He suspected there was a wart underneath the mole, causing the bleeding. A few days later, the doctor called me and told me it was melanoma! I was shocked, but the doctor had already made arrangements for me to see a plastic surgeon and have surgery to perform a wide excision of the area, along with a skin graft. Surgery was a success and all margins were clear.
During the next 3 months, then 6 months, I went through the routine for follow up (blood work, chest x-ray, etc). Later that same year, my husband and I were married. With that marriage, I became a step mom to two teenage girls.
During one of my follow-up visits, my plastic surgeon told my husband and me that if we wanted to start a family, to do some research regarding melanoma and the recurrence of melanoma. I did that research and even spoke with a specialist at Duke University. I was in good health, young and was given the “go ahead” with pregnancy. My doctors even put me through a series of testing to include an eye exam, MRI, chest x-ray, blood work, etc. to be sure. Very soon, I became pregnant!
At 17 weeks of the pregnancy, it was discovered that the melanoma was back and located on my calf muscle. I had surgery to remove the tumor and it appeared that all margins were clear, again. Throughout the remainder of my pregnancy, I had a few issues that didn’t quite make sense. I cracked a rib one day when I coughed. A few weeks later, I began having pain in my backside, and doctors felt that it was sciatica. I was assured this would resolve itself once I delivered.
On August 7, 1998, I was rushed in for an emergency C-section, but delivered a healthy baby girl! We were ecstatic. However, those feelings soon changed. Within just a few days, I was diagnosed with Stage 4 metastatic melanoma. The melanoma had attacked the bone and soft tissue of my hip, my ribs, my spine and my skull. My hip was actually fractured and I had to use crutches. Trust me, if you have never been on crutches after having a C-section, it is not fun! Additional visits to the doctors revealed that I had a 2% chance of survival and was told I may live for 7 or 8 months. The thought that I may not see my new daughter’s first birthday was unacceptable to me. There had to be a way for me to be part of the 2% who survived, versus the 98% who did not.
At this point, both of my parents had died from cancer. My mom died when I was 9 and my dad when I was 24. Also, I had lost aunts, uncles and friends to this same disease. This fight was on!
I was very fortunate to have a sister who searched diligently for treatment options. I had an oncologist who listened to me, understood my concerns and was open to any of my suggestions. First, I took radiation to alleviate the pain I was having in my hip. Then, I started a rigorous treatment of bio-chemotherapy. This treatment had such severe side effects, it was necessary for me to remain in the hospital while receiving it (usually 5-7 days). I followed up with high-dose Interferon injections for the week following my hospitalization. This was my life for the 8 months following the birth of my first child.
However, at that point, I was given a cancer-free diagnosis! Praise God! This month (July 2014) I remain cancer free 15 years later. My daughter will soon be getting her driver’s license. My husband and I were able to adopt our fourth daughter. She just turned 15 in May. We have welcomed two grandchildren and a son-in-law into the family as well.
God had given me a second chance! With all this great news, I felt compelled to put this experience into some form of action. I created a non-profit agency to counsel, encourage, motivate and educate others about cancer. Further confirmation of God’s plan came to me in the grocery story one day. Yes, God is everywhere!
Our daughter was given the name Willow Grace Foxworth, simply because my husband has the same initials and that was his request. I chose the name Willow, as a feminine version of William and he chose the name Grace, because it was similar to his middle name, Grady. The name Willow was never is a Baby Book of Names, but on this one particular occasion it was there. Other than the tree, Willow is English for healing and Grace means gift from God. WOW! Our daughter who I carried throughout my cancer diagnosis, tests, procedures and pain, was a Healing Gift from God. How amazing and reassuring is that?
I often provide motivational, inspirational and education speeches to various groups and ages, in an effort to provide hope and inspiration. I use this platform to educate others about melanoma and the danger of unprotected exposure to the sun. I have been a Partner in Education with my local school district and look forward to other opportunities to share my story and raise awareness of this dreaded disease. Currently, I am working to become a Certified Lay Servant Minister so that I may minister to others who are faced with and caring for a loved one with cancer. I not only want to SURVIVE, I want to THRIVE!
There aren’t too many people outside of western Wisconsin who have heard of the small town of Ellsworth. It’s the cheese curd capital of Wisconsin, as well as the town where I was born and raised. I was quite active in my school and community, participating in volleyball, basketball, theatre, choir, band, and National Honor Society; at the same time I babysat and worked in the local grocery store that my parents owned. My life looked normal on the outside, but there was an inside emptiness that lingered and nagged at me. I defined myself by how I looked and what my peers thought of me. My family and I went to church every Sunday, but Jesus played such an insignificant role in my everyday life. I ended up turning to others for my identity.
It got worse. Three days later, following a 16 hour neck surgery to fuse together the vertebrae in my neck, my breathing became labored. Doctors ran tests, then more tests to determine what was happening. I distinctly remember one of them telling me, “we are going to put you out for 15 minutes, we’ll see you soon.” 15 minutes turned into hours, then days. A Code Blue sent hospital personnel dashing into my room to resuscitate me. I was then induced into a coma for eight days, while my parents were told my chances of survival were nil. See, I had developed septic shock, which in my weakened condition was quite deadly. My doctor’s outlook was grave, while friends and family prayed and believed that God would do a miracle. Despite extremely low blood pressure, a consistent heart rate of 144 beats per minute, and a high fever of 108 degrees, the Lord answered those hundreds of prayer warriors. My life was spared.
My life did not instantly get better. Five months of rehab and one spent in the Ronald McDonald House blurred my vision of the future. Deep down I knew that I had lived for a reason and I should be thankful, but the frustration of my situation led to many struggles and setbacks that first year following my hospital stay. Thankfully, God hadn’t given up on me. In the spring of 1999 I attended a church play that re-enacted the Easter story in a way that I had never seen it before. “For the first time ever, I truly felt God’s presence. With little wavering, I received Jesus Christ into my heart as my Lord and Savior. It happened in a stranger’s church that April day, and I will never again be a faithless person,” I chronicle in my book. It truly was a day that I stopped looking backward and started climbing again.
A few years ago, my mother was diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis. Rheumatoid arthritis affects the lining of your joints, causing a tender swelling that can eventually result in bone erosion. Prior to that diagnosis, she went through multiple tests and no one could figure out why the joints in her feet and hand where inflamed. At the time, I just thought she was a great actress because she would move so slowly around the house or when we were out. She had trouble going up and down stairs, getting in and out of a car, and bending down to pick up objects she may have dropped.
With my brother and I both being science undergrad majors, we decided to do extensive research and even wrote research papers to help my mother combat this so called diagnosis of rheumatoid arthritis. To make a very long/complex story short, she adopted a western practice, changed her diet and knew that GOD would heal her and he did.
Growing up with such strong faith in the church, she knew in her heart, mind & soul that GOD was still in control. My mother is an active member of Harvest Life Changers Church in Woodbridge, VA and seeks God constantly to keep her grounded and healthy. She is back to playing volleyball and I love that we both play for the church team. She is also praise dancing with the women of worship. They ministered to Hosanna by Israel & new breed in the form of a dance. Every time I see her dancing, it still brings me to tears.
I honestly believe that when sincere and selfless praise is lifted in unity from the heart of a pure worshiper, chains are broken. Worship is your every day walk and I can honestly say that my mom is a true reflection of a holy and wholesome GODly women. She started working out & attending Jazzercises classes with myself & Kaye Hayes who she loves very much. She loves dance, any form, be it praise dancing or jazzercise. I think it partially has to do with the fact that she can move without pain now. She even told me to my face that she would consider teaching Jazzercise herself. It just blesses my entire being knowing that GOD heard and hears our prayers. Many, tears have been shed behind closed doors and in the sanctuary knowing that GOD would do it for my mommy. I love my mother with all of my heart & I am sure she knows that. Her story has brought many to tears but furthermore helped people keep the faith and transform their mindset. GOD is real & so is heaven; stick to faith and good things will happen to you like they happened to my mother.
At the age of 17 in 1985, I thought I would join the Amy and it would change my life. My career was cut short when in 1988 I was told I could no longer be a soldier and it was for the good of the Army. I later found out that it was because my father had basically stolen all the money out of my accounts and it caused me to write bad checks without knowing it until it was too late. In June of 1988, he was charged with sexual assault of a minor. Since it was me that helped my younger sister file charges, he wrote a letter to my commander while I was in Germany and said I had threatened to kill myself if I didn’t get to go home. I was not a perfect soldier by any means, but that was my dream.
Back in the real world I tried to find a job and it didn’t go well. I moved around a lot and began to make stupid choices. Those choices got me into legal trouble, which has haunted me since 1990. So now I am an Army Mental Case that was honorably discharged and a Felon on probation. So I did what I could for work and then I met a wonderful woman; we began dating and she became pregnant. Our plan was to move to Indiana and raise the child there but 8 months after Brittany was born she passed away of a rare blood disorder. To make everything worse, the woman who carried my child took her own life a week later. I went into a depressed state and started doing drugs and drinking a lot which got me put back in county jail after I was released back on probation and had to attend meeting as well as one of the conditions. I began bowling and discovered that I was pretty good at it. I entered my first tournament and won so I decided to celebrate and went to a nightclub to celebrate my win. That is where I met another woman. We started dating and on July 29, 1994 we got married.
So I am thinking to myself that I am finally getting my life where I want it to be, but then things in life took a turn. On November 22, 1996, I found out I was going to be a father again. I was also accepted on the Professional Bowlers Tour as a member. So you would think that everything would be great, right? Well, Sara came into the world on August 1997 and she was beautiful. And then a reality set in…will she pass away like Brittany did? That caused me to become distant and eventually cost me my marriage with her mother in 1999.
On Father’s Day in 2009, my daughter who is now 12 says to me “Why don’t you go to college?” I said no one in my family besides myself had ever even graduated high school or go to college, and it has been over 20 years since I was in a classroom. She looked at me and told me “You are my father, who I love so much and I know you can do it.” After speaking with my daughter, I began trying to figure out how to go and where to go to school. That day I made a promise that I would not only go to college, but that I would graduate. So in the fall of 2009, I began school at St. Philip’s College in San Antonio where I studied Business Management. I not only went to school, but I found out I was quite smart, especially at what I was studying! I was able to join Phi Theta Kappa and then became the VP of Service for Psi Kappa. I began to see a difference in myself. I was giving up my time to help tutor, raise money for organizations such as Wounded Warriors Project, Soldier’s Angel’s and many others. I volunteered at a home for children that were abandoned and abused once a month to throw them a birthday party that they would not normally get. Helping others helped myself, and I felt incredible. I graduated in the summer of 2012 with an AA in Business Administration & Economics. I then transferred to Texas A&M San Antonio where this past May, I graduated with my BA in Business Admin.
I am now dating a woman that I can for the first time in my life say I truly love, and soon to be going back to work on my Master’s Degree in Business. I hope that with a second chance, I can teach others by my mistakes and trials and that you can do anything that you set your mind to. I have learned to not let anyone tell you that you are not a good enough for anything. I wish that someone had done that for me…
I received a call that Jalen was in the hospital, with no additional information provided, I drove to the hospital ignoring all speed limits. Once I arrived at the hospital, I was taken to a room and I was told that someone would come and update me on my son's status. I remember sitting in the chair in that cold room, and hearing my heart beating so loud that I thought it was going to come through my chest. A few minutes of waiting felt like hours, and my heart was beating faster and faster. The nurse entered the room and just wanted to verify some personal information. After the verification process, I begged to see my son. She said that I would be able to see him after the doctor spoke with me. The doctor came in with two other people from the hospital staff. He wanted me to know that my son was brought to the hospital because he attempted suicide. I screamed, "You have the wrong child, my son loves life and would never attempt suicide!" I wanted to see Jalen, I needed to talk to him to understand what was going on. They did an assessment and upon completion of the assessment, I was told that Jalen would be admitted to the hospital's Psychiatric Unit for two weeks.
"What could I have possibly done wrong as a mother to cause my son to want to end his life?" I had no answers, no clues. I shut the world out, and wanted no one to know about Jalen's suicide attempt. He completed his two-week stay and upon his release, he was then admitted to the hospital's outpatient facility. After two days of being in the outpatient facility, he had another suicide attempt. He was then admitted back to the Psychiatric Unit for another two weeks. He was heavily medicated, and he was attending group and individual therapy. I went to visit him during visitation and we both just sat in silence. I just stared at him and cried. Visitation was brief, and before I left, I hugged and told him how much I loved him. The silence was eating at my soul like a really bad infection. He was released again to the hospital's outpatient facility and on his first day there, another suicide attempt!
During therapy, his silence was broken, and he admitted that he had been a victim of bullying. I wanted names, but once again, he shut down and did not give any additional information. I went to his school to talk to school administrators to address the bullying and to implement a plan of action. I was not successful at getting any assistance from school administrators; I was left to fight alone. Jalen returned to school and the bullying continued. One incident on the bus, the bullies stomped him repeatedly in his stomach, threw his backpack out the bus window and broke his glasses in half. This led to another suicide attempt and admission back to the Psychiatric Unit. This particular visit to the hospital, I found out that the patient that shared a room with my son was biting him when he was sleeping. There were bite marks all over his legs. Also, he went without taking a shower, or changing clothes, because the hospital tech did not check on him for three days. I reported these incidents to the staff and wrote letters to the board.
He returned to school and there were several more suicide attempts and admissions to Psychiatric Units within the Dallas/Fort Worth area. My soul felt weak and the fight seemed like a no win battle. I had decided that if Jalen wanted to end his life, that I would end mine with him so that I would not have to live life without him. After his last suicide attempt, we joined church and we were baptized together. The healing process was like an open wound, just when the scab was about to appear, we started picking at it until the wound reopened. Currently, we are both in counseling going through the healing process and when the scab appears, no matter how bad it itches, we are not reopening the wounds. Jalen has been given a second chance to live life and we will continue counseling, healing and living life together.
The plan was simple, I would graduate the top of my program from college, land a killer job with an architectural firm, live on top of a high rise, bank money and finally start at marriage and family life by thirty-five. And then God had HIS plan. In the final semester of my senior year of college, I got pregnant.
Pregnant!? What would I ever tell my strict Catholic parents? What about that stellar firm? Am I even marrying this man? Tears, rage, frustration, confusion and fear all at once mixed with morning sickness, exhaustion, finals and senior thesis…
We did marry, and with a 2-year-old baby, we welcomed baby number two. We were a proud family with a happy husband and wife with the cutest two little boys. We had no idea what lay ahead of us.
In my quest to have it all and do it all, I found myself conflicted with family and business schedules. I made a decision to leave my family after a wedding to meet up with a client at the baseball game. I mean after all, this was an opportunity of a lifetime, and I knew my parents would take good care of the kids! I was invited to a private box with all of the players’ wives of the professional baseball team present and my client said I did NOT want to miss this. She wanted to brag me up to all of the ladies and get me more clients! I HAD to go! This was what I had been hoping for right?! I could still make the wedding, leave the boys and head south on highway 57…I had been working so hard at establishing my company and this could be the break our family needed.
Russell Simmons once wrote about very few people ever truly living in the minute. When the seconds slow to feel like minutes and time essentially freezes into slow frames of your mind. My inner dialogue took over as my life changed in front of me. “She is not going to pull out right now is she?! Oh my GOD! She pulled out in front of me! What are you doing!? Can you not see me?! “
I check my speed — 55 mph. I check my surroundings — a double lane, a median, and a double lane coming in the opposite direction. It’s rush hour — two cars behind me, one in each lane. If I T-bone her, she’ll die instantly. What is the probability of my survival? They are going too fast, I will more than likely die… can I get into the median? At this speed there is no telling if I will actually stop and I risk the oncoming traffic….
“Ok, think Jessica, THINK… You need to swerve. Yes! Swerve around her and get to the shoulder, hopefully you don’t clip her front end and spin her out….GO!” I didn’t hear the gravel as the road ended and I went down the cliff.
“That hurts….uh, that really hurts…if my head hits again I am going to die, brace yourself Jessica, you’re still rolling…. Ignition.. Unbuckle the seat belt Jessica, you’re hanging… The back windshield is shattered through…….army crawl on the ceiling and get out……” My inner monologue stopped, and the voices around me started.
“She’s woken up. Don’t bring them here. I don’t want them to see their mother like this. She is in and out. There is no movement in the left side of her body. They are doing more MRI’s, she is still moaning about her head hurting her and she is vomiting a lot.”
“Mommy’s home!!!!” “Mommy, mommy, mommy! Mommy, you saved a lady’s life???? Like a real live super hero?”
And then, life kept happening. And the voices around me continued.
“We will need to remove your cervix. You are in stage CIN3 of pre-cervical cancer and the strand is progressing quickly. Did you plan on having any more children?” Happy 29th birthday to me.
“It’s been a year and your PAP has tested clean. The healing looks good and if you want to try for one more before we take it all out now is the time.” Happy 30th Birthday….
Life keeps on happening…
I was happy that he loved it down in Houston, but in the meantime I felt like the three boys and I had been abandoned. I knew it was to better our life but he left us! I wanted to go down there with him immediately, but I knew I had to wrap things up with my clients, the house had to be listed and sold, the boys wanted to finish out their school year at their school. I was doing this all alone though! Where was he!? Sure, he went work, but at five o’clock he had the evening to himself. I was so tired…. Do you know how much stuff there is to pack up from 2500 square feet of three boys, a business, and a husband who “collects things?” The dog ran away. Again. God, I felt so alone! I had a job and three little children. I had a house to pack and sell….
Have you ever seen the movie, “I Don’t Know How She Does It” with Sarah Jessica Parker? That is my life viewed from the outside. Add permanent back injury that is internal and not visible causing forever pain that is felt but not seen; add not only working but running my own company; add extra doctor visits and PAPS for constant surveillance; and I still would not trade it for the world. What pulls me through? How do I do it? My faith. My mother always says, “Hope runs eternal”. My hope is that one day it will all to fall into place. And do you know what? It is.
As I continue my journey in faith and place my trust in God, His plan is slowly revealed to me. I asked God at 22 years old why I had to be pregnant then. I found out at 29 years old it was because my plan to start at 35 was not going to be physically or biologically possible. I asked God why I had to have the car accident and have pain for pretty much the rest of my life that nobody can see therefore nobody can empathize with. I needed to check myself. I needed to prioritize when, who and how I am meeting with clients. That client still went to the game and partied that night, even after receiving the call of what had happened to me. I was nobody to them. I was everybody to my children. When you have a “living in the second” moment, when your life flashes right before your eyes, when the reality sinks in that if fate was not on your side the world would continue to go on as it did the day before and the day before that, you suddenly gain an appreciation for every minute you breathe that beautiful breath, every time your heart gives you one more beat?
Most importantly, when I asked God why I was alone, why my husband abandoned us not just physically to pursue his career but mentally and emotionally by cutting himself off from me, when I felt I was facing all of the obstacles to keeping my marriage and family together alone… when I asked why I was ALONE, He answered me. He told me I was not. He sent an angel to my door in the middle of the night, at my utmost deepest and darkest moment, knocking and telling me to let him in so we could pray together. God sent my brother-in-law and his prayer partner to come and be warriors to pull me through to see His glory.
I have been given a second chance, more than once. I continue to see my life through my own eyes, and that is when God comes forward and gives me another chance to see it through His.
Ironically, when I was 18 years old, my boyfriend at the time was shot in the back while sitting at a park during a drive-by shooting. I was pregnant with my oldest child at the time this occurred. Just like with my mother, I found myself helping him take care of his bullet wound as well. The hole in his back was almost the size of a silver dollar and required daily cleaning. Once again I was put in the position that required me to nurse someone else’s wounds.
In hindsight, I believe that I was put in the position of taking care of other’s physical wounds to prepare me to handle my own emotional wounds. Time went on and at the age of 22, I was kidnapped at gunpoint by someone who I knew and had been involved with for a short time. I had tried to break up with him and he felt rejected and could not accept it. One night, while standing outside of a nightclub talking to a group of people before leaving, he approached me out of nowhere and demanded to speak with me. When I refused, he put a gun to my head, snatched my keys out of my hand and led me to my car at gunpoint. He drove me around town pleading his love for me while pointing the gun at me. I begged him to let me out of the car but he wouldn’t. He told me that he was going to kill me and then kill himself. He drove me to an area of town where there aren’t many houses and a lot of wooded, undeveloped land. He was trying to make me get out of the car and lay face down on the ground. I was determined not to get out of the car. He got out and came around to the passenger side of the car and started trying to pull me out. I screamed to the top of my lungs. There was a house that was nearby and I saw a light come on after my scream. By now, an APB had been issued for my car and the police were frantically trying to locate us. I heard police sirens in the far distance and he did too. He slammed my car door shut, jumped back in to the driver’s side and took off again. He drove a few blocks before stopping the car in the middle of the street, jumping out of the car and running away.
I sat in my car, not able to move and cried. Soon police cars were everywhere, they surrounded the car. They did not know that he was not in the car anymore so they drew their guns, pointed them at my car and slowly approached. When they saw I was in the car alone, they put their guns away and came to my rescue. As I was explaining what happened, I looked up and my kidnapper was walking toward the scene again. He had apparently run far enough away to get rid of the gun. I identified him to the officer and they pointed their guns at him and asked him to get down on the ground face down. He just kept saying “I wasn’t going to hurt her.” They asked him again to get down on the ground face down before they had to take action and he finally did. I gave my statement to the police, but as the trial approached, I could not bring myself to testify. I received a couple of letters from him while he was in jail. Believe it or not, I even wrote him back. Me being as naïve as I was, I felt sorry for him. I later learned that this is called victim’s remorse. This is something that many victims of violent acts will go through. I avoided the sheriff’s efforts to deliver a subpoena to me, so I never testified. I could not bring myself to have to relive every detail of that situation again. He was still charged and sent to prison. Years later, I was married and had moved on with my life. One day I stepped outside of my house to watch my daughters, who were in the yard playing. I looked across the street and saw a man standing on the porch looking at me. He looked familiar, so I kept staring at him until I could focus on his face. It was him!! I could not believe it. No one ever notified me that he was being released. To make matters worse, he moved in with the girl who lived across the street from me. I told my husband, who had never known him, and he was livid. I immediately called the parole office to find out what was going on. They asked if he had threatened or harmed me in anyway and told me that they did not have a restriction on his living arrangements and could not force him to move. I could not believe it. What a slap in the face! That was one of the most uncomfortable situations I had ever been in. We owned our home so this was hard for us. What if he had tried to harm me again? What if he kidnapped one of my children? I didn’t know what his state of mind was. After all, he had just served prison time because of something he did to me. Not too much longer, they moved out and I never saw him again.
At the age of 36, I was on the verge of a divorce and had just started to deal with the side effects of the sexual abuse I was subjected to as a young girl. I started to see myself as “damaged goods” because of how this affected my relationships. I never received the proper treatment or counseling I needed back then but I don’t really have any one to blame because I never told anyone. I was too scared to and I thought it was my fault. In my young and immature mind I believed that I must have been doing something that made these men think it was ok to do the things they did to me. I had no idea I was internalizing the disgust, shame and guilt and it was subconsciously being manifested in the way I responded to the person who really loved me and cared for me and was not trying to hurt me. I pushed him away just like I tried to do to the men who violated me; except they didn’t go away for quite a while. Once I finally realized that I had suppressed the images and the reality of the abuse, I first acknowledged that it did happen and that is where my healing began. Now I am conscious and aware and better prepared to deal with and manage any effects and to discuss them openly.
I had several set-backs in the early part of my adult life. I did not go to college right after high school as planned because I was pregnant. However, I did go to a business school and received an executive assistant diploma that I used to secure jobs in the meantime. I was not content because I had always been an honor student knew I would go to college. With perseverance, I did receive my bachelor’s degree 13 years after graduating from high school and my masters 16 years later. I am proud to say that through all of the heartache and pain, I was still very ambitious and determined to succeed, not letting the unfortunate things that happened to me write the script for my future. Today, I am a proud mother with two of my four daughters in college, one in high school and one who is working every day. I have been very successful in my career and as a business woman. In addition to my Monday-Friday day job as a career counselor at a local university, I am also a life, career and business consultant/coach and motivational speaker. This is my part-time work but I am slowly building it so that I will be able to pursue it full-time because this is what I am truly passionate about. My mission in life is to motivate and encourage others to be bold enough to step out on faith and do what they are passionate about regardless of what may have or may not have happened in their past. I use my story of restoration and perseverance as a platform to deliver messages of hope and courage. My story includes the struggles in my personal, professional and spiritual life and how I overcame them. I candidly open myself up about these circumstances in my soon-to-be released book, which is my extended testimony, Broken But Not Destroyed: Restoration is Possible.
While I was in Japan working with a group of people. Lt. Mevehichi walked over to us and said, “Alexander I need to speak with you”. Now it was April Fool’s weekend, my guard went up, and I didn’t want to be the joke of the day. We began walking and talking about nothing. We entered the door to this small office, inside was a man who was introduced as a priest, and a female from our unit. The priest began nervously reading paperwork from the Red Cross. He said, “Angela your family has been in a car accident.” And from the looks on their faces I knew this was no April’s Fool’s Joke.
Now the day before, my husband and four children were driving down the highway in California, a car cut them off. Our truck hit the center divider, everyone was knocked unconscious. Our truck went backwards across the highway and fell twenty-five feet below.
When the police, ambulance, firefighters with their jaws-of-life, came to the scene, they saw a father and four children. My daughter Angela, who was eleven at the time, was in and out of consciousness.
A police officer asked, “Where’s your mother?”
She looked at the officer all dazed and said, “My mother’s in Japan.”
Well the officer just thought she hit her head way too hard and was delirious, and didn’t believe a word she said. So he retrieved my address from my husband’s driver’s license, and came to my home. Praise God I wasn’t there!
The Priest said,
“Your husband Surie, he’s in the hospital, but he’s okay.”
“Your daughter Angela, she’s in the hospital, but she’s okay.”
“Your daughter Angelina, she’s in the hospital, but she’s okay.”
“Your two eight-year-old sons Murice and Roger, they didn’t make it.”
Instantly, as if it were only God and I in the room, I recalled a prayer my children said before going to bed.
“Now I lay me down to sleep,
I pray the Lord my soul to keep.
If I should die before I wake,
I pray the Lord my soul to take.”
Because I wanted to hear from my sons so badly, I felt in my heart as if I heard them say.
“No, Mommy, that priest is wrong. We prayed the Lord our soul to take we did make it we’re here with J-e-s-u-s!”
God was sending me so much love; and so much peace, there was no room for pain. The people in the room were watching and waiting for my world to turn upside down. Instead, they witnessed my world still in alignment with the One we call our Heavenly Father, our Prince of Peace, our Comfort and Provider, the almighty God!
One of the many miracles was although Murice and Roger passed instantly God allowed both to independently write and leave behind incredible good-bye letters. Murice didn't know about Roger's letter and Roger didn’t know about Murice’s letter they individually listened to the Holy Spirit and obeyed. Each letter answered specific questions that I would have wondered about for the rest of my life. In the letters I received the peace from God that I so desperately needed to survive. While I was writing my sons’ memorial program God revealed that their letters were written to soothe my soul, but more importantly to share.
At the time I had fifteen years in the Air Force. I asked God if He would give me the strength to put my uniform back on and stay in the military for another five years. If so I would retire and dedicate my life to sharing this amazing testimony. Well God granted me that strength and I retired from March ARB, in 2005. Now I’m an Author & Inspirational Speaker of my autobiography titled, Miracles in Action ~ Turning Pain into Power and Grief into Peace.
Recently God has opened the door for Miracles in Action to be turned into a documentary! I’m currently raising funds to finance the movie. Please visit, like, share, and donate if you feel led to bring this amazing testimony to the screen. My Go Fund Me link is, http://www.gofundme.com/7qv06o. Thank you in advance, and expect God’s fabulous favor!
Join the blessing because the Miracle is in Action!!!
I've had to face adversities in some of the most basic things of life. Learning to write, holding or using a utensil, and putting on a shirt were just some of the things I had to learn. I did not want to use devices or handicap equipment; I wanted to do things on my own! So I learned. I stepped out on faith before I even understood what Faith was. I learned how to write, eat, bathe and clothe myself without the use of any accommodating devices. I even most recently learned to apply my own makeup;) God has carried me through it all and we figured it out OUR way! I believe the Bible when Jesus said ALL things are possible through God, so I continued to challenge myself.
I took my precious boy, Seth Thomas Squyres, to all of his usual appointments and immunizations, and everything looked great until around his 5th month of life. We were sitting at home and he appeared to have a quick seizure. I called his pediatrician immediately and the nurse asked me a slew of questions ranging from, “had he had a bowel movement” to “could anything have startled him?” The nurse tried to assure me that I must have seen him wincing in pain from a gas bubble or something, but I knew that was not what I saw. I insisted on having him seen by a doctor.
We were given an appointment the following day and it was then that the pediatrician felt his neck control was weak and he was not visually tracking properly. She also said he should be able to grip a toy at this point, which he could not do. She scheduled us with a neurologist right away. In the meantime, the seizures became more frequent and more prominent. The neurologist ordered an MRI of the brain before we went in to see him and the plan was he would go over the results with us in person.
The neurologist scheduled us as his last appointment for the day, at 5:00 pm. Soon, we would understand why. He went on to explain to us that our son had a very rare brain disease called Lissencephaly. He said our son would not advance beyond a 5-month level, would be severely challenged, and would not live a long life. He said our son’s brain was so severely afflicted by this disease; he would be lucky to live to be 15 months of age. He said the seizures would soon become more prominent and become harder and harder to control. He told us with a brain as severely afflicted as Seth’s was, he ran the risk of dying from an uncontrolled seizure at any time, if not a long list of many other things that could take his life due to Lissencephaly.
All I knew was that I was looking at what looked like a perfectly healthy child, and this doctor was telling me that my child’s life would never be normal and he would most likely die within the next 10 months.
Once I stepped outside of his office, I looked up and screamed into the cloudy sky, with tears as hot as lava pouring down my cheeks, “WHYYYYYYYY?????!!!!”
That would be the first and last time I asked that question. I knew that some things on this earth we will never understand, but God does. My cry to God seemed to crack the sound barrier, along with everything in my heart that ever mattered. My heart was officially broken into too many pieces to count.
Soon after the diagnosis, my son’s dad left me. He couldn’t handle the stress of the news, left town and we didn’t know how to find him. I was 22, alone with a terminally ill child, and heartbroken.
I WAS STUCK.
Not only was I stuck; I needed immediate help. I found a local organization that helps families of children with severe disabilities and terminal illness. They immediately got me in with a therapist and helped me with things like diapers and my electric bill. I was working but as a single mom with my son’s medical bills piling up, I was getting overwhelmed. This organization helped to pull me out of a deep depression by offering me a chance to become a speaker for them.
My son and I sprung into action. I was a spokesperson for the organization, doing news spots and public speaking, and my son became a “poster child’ for them. They had porcelain dolls made in his likeness and donors to the foundation who donated $1,000 or more got a doll of my sweet Seth. We sold 30 dolls and raised several thousand dollars. So, what we did was “pay it forward” and helped to raise money to help other families like us. It was very fulfilling and rewarding to give back. That is how we became motivated. We were motivated to help others like us, and that gave us a purpose, and made us feel good. Seth and I made the best of what we had to work with. We found peace and purpose in our lives.
My son’s father came back into our lives not too long before Seth passed away. Amazingly, Seth lived to be just shy of his 4th birthday. I was blessed with another child, Kai Asher Dawson. I feel I have been given a second chance to be as good as a mom to Kai as I was to Seth. I feel that Seth’s situation helped me to try and be more conscious of how I raise Kai. I know what it is like to lose a child, but I also am lucky enough to know what it is like to lose someone with no regrets. I gave Seth my all, and when he passed, I held him in my lap and gave him back to God. I got to say goodbye, I knew I had done my best with him, we did good for others, and I had no regrets. I learned so much from this and I remember this as I raise my healthy son, Kai. We live by compassion for others, and Kai has a special place in his heart for kids with disabilities. Kai and I ended up being on our own again when he was just one year old, but we learned how to work together well, how to find happiness in adversity, and to always reach to God when we are weak. This method of living hasn’t let us down yet.
Fast-forward 8 years. Kai and I had been trucking along pretty well on our own, with the help from my parents, but that was it. I decided to open my own business so that I could eventually make more money and create my own hours so I would have more time with Kai. I worked very hard to make this happen, and it did. I opened Lotus Blue, Hair Studio, on the famous “Drag”, in Austin, TX. It was right across the street from the UT Campus. I had my business paid off in two years, was making a profit within 3, and on my way to success. During this time I fell in love with a great guy, Ronnie Lawson. I was on top of the world.
Kai loved Ronnie, Ronnie loved Kai, Ronnie and I loved each other. I had my own business. Life felt perfect. What could possibly go wrong?
I could find a lump in my breast, that’s what.
So, right as I feel ready to grow my business, I find a lump. I was only 34 years old, so now we have fast-forwarded 12 years from the first “life’s obstacle” that I shared, being my sweet Seth’s brain disease. Now, it’s my own disease. As fate would have it, I would be diagnosed with Triple Negative. Mine was specifically “Triple Negative Invasive Ductal Carcinoma”. Wow. Everything happened so fast after I heard the words, “I’m sorry, Leah, you have cancer.”
I was diagnosed on April 9th, 2008. By May 9th, I was having a bilateral mastectomy. A couple weeks later, they put my port in. A couple weeks later, I started chemo. A couple weeks later, I lost my hair. A couple weeks later, I was feeling really, really weak.
My relationship with my son, Kai, Ronnie, and a supportive family kept me motivated. I had already learned that I got a second chance with Kai, and our bond kept me motivated. Secondly, I LOVE TO WRITE. I started a little online medical blog to update my family and friends about my progress during treatment, and before I knew it, I had 267 regular followers on my blog.
I was as real as I could be in my blog. I expressed what I was feeling as truthfully as I could. Before I knew it, I had many women telling me that my blog was helping them with their own personal journey with breast cancer. Everyone that was coming to my blog encouraged to me to continue to share and to write, so I did. I did it for them, and for me. I received so many private messages of hope and thanks from women everywhere, and even from their husbands. My blog and my optimism kept me motivated. I wanted to do well, and I wanted to write about doing well, and I wanted to help others. I achieved all of that, and I am so grateful to God for giving me that outlet.
I recently had another very invasive surgery on September 23rd last year for another tumor in my chest. I am using this experience as a final chapter in a book that I have written about my experience, and to illustrate what hope and love can do. My book is about the silver linings in all adversity, and how if you open your heart, and not give up, you will see your meaning and purpose.
I started smoking marijuana, abusing prescription medications, drinking alcohol, club hopping and started having sex with a much older man. At the age of 14, I was in the car with a few friends who were under the influence and we were involved in a bad car wreck. Upon having X rays and lab work done, the doctors revealed to me that I was 2 months pregnant! Of course I panicked, became frantic and pretty much cried for the rest of the day. Back then, I was for sure that my world would crumble from there. After my mother found out, she asked who was the father and I then revealed who he was and that he was 29 years old at the time and my mother went crazy. She even tried to stab him and have him arrested for provoking and having sex with a minor of my age. There after he soon went to jail for manufacturing narcotics and left my daughter and I behind. My mother turned her back on me, my father was on drugs at the time and I had no help at all.
By the age of 16, I moved out with my aunt and changed my date of birth around so I could start working to try to provide for my daughter. With the grace of God I got hired at Protection One doing data entry and was making a whopping $9 per hour. It was such a blessing to me and my baby back then. A few months later, after waiting on the section 8 list for housing assistance for a year or so, I finally came up on the list at the age of 17 and moved into my first apartment. I proceeded to get my GED, graduated six months later and started working for a better company by the time I was 18. I dated, met another guy who was dealing drugs, had another child, and then he then went to jail. After I ended things with him, I had to move on. I focused more on my babies and work as much as I could until I met my future husband.
I was diagnosed with anxiety, depression and bipolar after his death. Which reintroduced me to the prescription medications that I was once was freed from. I started abusing them again, split with my fiancé and spiraled back out of control from there. Thank God my father had become clean and became a minister. If it wasn't for him, I would still be lost to this very day. He prayed over me and my life everyday until I got help and over came my pain and abuse. I also received help from my pastor Ricky Rush and from my doctors. I kept praying and slowly became the woman I am today.
Even though it was a very hard task to stop doing what most young people did, I stopped dating for 5 years, stayed away from all of the bad influences in my life, and just focused on the Lord and my children. I then enrolled in school for Massage Therapy. I graduated, started working for a Chiropractor and began my new journey. Years later, I enrolled in school again and became an esthetician. Once I completed school, gained a few more years of experience at local salons and got my clientele up, I stepped out on faith and opened up my own private spa. I've been self-employed for 10 years and a business owner for 5 years now and I absolutely love it. My children are healthy, smart and most of all, alive. It took a lot out of me to bury my 3rd child, but I most definitely learned a lot about life.
I've always dreamed big as a child and for a second, I thought I would be another African American statistic, but the Lord had a much better plan for my life. I'm no longer on any type of government assistance, my children are highly intelligent and healthy, I live in a beautiful home and most of all I am a successful business owner of The Skin Bar in Uptown Dallas! I've met and worked on so many motivated and inspirational people and I simply love what I do. I'm at peace, it keeps me in a positive mood, it makes me an honest living, I make my own schedule and I love pampering people. It simply works for everyone. Check us out at www.facebook.com/theskinbartx
I'm still unmarried and a single parent of two, but I've come a very long way! I give praise everyday to God because He has truly shown me that even when you don't have the proper amount of guidance or enough support system, you too can be whoever you want to be with dedication, prayer and will power. I was honored as one of the 2012 success stories, by the city of Grand Prairie, and I am considered to be one of the leading ladies of my generation in that same community that brought me so much hell. I share my joy publicly everyday on all of my social networks and receive new messages via inbox or on a status on much I motivate others and how I encourage them to never give up. & I owe it all to God. The very same people who frowned upon me as a young pregnant teen give me my props today and it really amazes me. I never knew how many people that were rooting for me until I started opening up about how I use to be, providing my daily actions and being that example that I want my kids to look up to. They were against me then, but love me now! I am their daily motivation and that makes my heart smile. I am truly a living testimony and I can honestly say that, I can do all things with Christ who strengthens me! Amen!
I remember a lady named Sheryl "befriended" my biological mother and her husband (my "step dad"). She became my friend and I felt very comfortable talking to her about things that were happening to me. One day she came to our house and my mom told Sheryl that she needed to take me because she was "fixing to kill" me. Sheryl didn't know what to do but she knew she had to get me out of that house one way or another. So, she "kidnapped" me and took me home with her. I don't remember how long I was there, but I remember being woken up one night by screams and banging on all the doors and windows. Everyone was frantic and scared. Next thing I knew, cops, news crews and helicopters surrounded the house. I was rushed out, wrapped in a blanket, and handed to a woman who got in the back of a police car with me.
I awoke the next morning in a strange place, scared and alone. I was in a foster home, safe and away from my abusive life. It was so surreal that my old life was left behind me — my Mommy and all. Strange as it may sound, considering all that I had endured, I loved my "Mommy" and I didn't want to leave her. She was all I knew amongst my life of torture.
I met a guy and fell madly "in love" right away. Since I thought I knew everything, I decided to run away and go live with him. We moved into a drug-infested neighborhood, which in turn, led me to become addicted to drugs. I became deeply addicted and dependent on Meth-amphetamines. On top of that, the beatings started the second night of my boyfriend and I living together.
The man I thought I loved would beat me so badly that I thought he would kill me. He would punch, slap, kick, and bite me, etc. I thought this was all because he loved me. I thought this was what love really was. I mean, after all, my biological mom and dad loved me and they did all those things to me all the time. This is what love was to me, so I might as well get used to it.
I was knocked out, hung off a bridge, beat with anything he could find, drug by my hair down a flight of stairs and across a gravel parking lot. I thought this was all because he "loved" me. He would drive me out to the country and beat me until I was almost unconscious and then rape me repeatedly. On the way back into town, he would tell me how much he loved me and that he only did these things because he was so scared of losing me.
Why did I stay you ask? You might say, "You're stupid for putting up with it" or "You deserved what you got for not leaving." One thing that people do not understand is that leaving takes careful planning. You might get killed the second you cut loose. It takes so much strength and courage to leave, and I didn't have either of those. He had sucked all my strength, courage, self-esteem and self-worth right out of me. He LOVED me. I mean, he told me so. He told me each time how sorry he was. I thought I could change him. I thought I could make him love me. I was dead wrong and almost died trying. After 7 long years, I finally got the courage to leave. I am now remarried to an amazing man, have 2 amazing daughters of my own, and amazing kids by marriage.
Why did I just spill my guts on a public site for the world to see? Because someone, somewhere needs to see this and know that there is hope and a "Second Chance" at life. I found a way to survive all that I've endured and make an amazing life for myself, and you can too. Don't use your past as a stumbling block and a crutch. Use it as a stepping-stone, pick yourself up, dust yourself off and keep moving!
If you are in an abusive situation right now, get help. Get out if you can and talk to someone you trust. Change your destiny. If you know someone in an abusive situation. DO NOT judge them, talk down to them or threaten to distance yourself from them. This will only push them further away from the help they need. Be there for them. Listen to them. JUST LISTEN! You have NO idea what they are going through so don't pretend you do unless you have been there yourself. Don’t play God. Don't get mad when they repeatedly run back and forth to the abuser. Just give them the support they need.
It is only by the grace of God that I am here today, nothing more and nothing less. The night I was able to break free, things happened that could only have been because of God. It was almost supernatural. If there is someone reading this that needs courage, I pray you find it before its too late.
At the age of six, I was diagnosed with MVP, Mitral Valve Prolapse that consists of a heart murmur. I continued to beat the odds. Then became a victim of a crime like most children growing up in low-income neighborhoods. Through a five-year time span, at the age of six, a minister of the gospel raped me almost everyday in my own home. I was held captive on a daily basis as I was victimized, tortured, and tormented in my own house. This very man is scheduled to be released from prison in 2015.
For eight years I was sinking deeply into the aftermath of my abuse. I struggled with my education and suffered from learning disabilities. During high school, I would hang out and not apply myself. Because of this, I didn’t graduate on time with my classmates and kicked my education to the curb. Years later, I went back and received a high school diploma.
Shortly after, I enrolled in Cosmetology school and modeling school. I thought I was on a road towards success. I battled with the abandonment from my natural father. The anger began to turn into rage and I had thoughts of death. I constantly dreamed of leaving this world. I hated being alive. I didn’t trust anyone and fell into the hands of men who I thought loved me. I began to isolate myself from the world. My health issues and the molestation continuously reassured me that I was a failure. After the rejection of my natural dad and ex-fiancé, I sincerely didn’t want to live. By the age of twenty-three, I fell asleep on the bed and heard the words, “I’m going to set you free” and I ignored it until the transformation took place. In my late teens, I didn’t take my faith seriously until after my redemption. Once I made a choice to truly be open to it, the process began.
It was as if supernaturally I was set free. God miraculously appeared in my life and gave me a second chance. The chains that were wrapped around my soul that tried to kill me had been dismantled!
I am now leading women towards freedom as the founder of “SwS” Sisters with Stories. We share our struggles, victories and our stories. I have hopes that by sharing my story, and like it says in Revelations 12:11, captives will be SET FREE!
In 2010, I was diagnosed with postpartum depression. I had just had a baby; I was expecting to have the ‘new mother bliss’ that everyone talks about. Sadly, that never happened for me. Instead of celebrating, I felt like crying. I was extremely depressed and could not sleep at night. I could not enjoy the blessing of a new birth that GOD had blessed me with. I recognized that this behavior was very different and erratic for me since I am known as a people person who is always smiling. It was like someone had come into my internal home and taken over. This was not the Denise that my friends, family, and even myself knew.
I was a totally different person who I could not recognize, so I opted into seeing a specialist where I began getting treatment for my postpartum depression. There was drug after drug and admittance after admittance in countless hospitals. This pattern of behavior continued for over a year until one night that forever changed life.
On November 1st, 2011, I attempted to take my own life by taking over 50 sleeping pills, depression, and anxiety meds. Thank GOD I did not succeed. The LORD sent my partner home early from work that evening. He noticed that I was unconscious upstairs after hearing me snoring from the garage. My struggle did not end there. I continued to battle for the next 2 years with extreme depression, disappointment, and countless suicidal thoughts. I am not exaggerating when I say that doctors tried every single medication for depression there is including Electroconvulsive Therapy.
After treatment, I was still faced with depression and suicidal thoughts. It got to the point where I hated waking up and even questioned GOD. Why had he abandoned me and left me this way? It has been two years since I attempted to take my life and 3 years of constant struggle, but I am here today because GOD said it’s not over for me.
Soon after I felt GOD breathe life back into me, for GOD’s grace is sufficient. I may have lost every sense of me, but I never lost my praise. I am still standing here after all I have felt and done and I feel that I exemplify the idea that GOD truly has a bigger plan and second chances for everyone. I have a purpose to fulfill. I prayed to GOD to use me and that I knew he saved me for a reason.
Throughout my life, I have learned that if you struggle with postpartum depression, it doesn’t mean you are a bad mother. There is no reason to be overwrought with guilt, depression, or shame. My advice is to find GOD and to surround yourself with people who nurture and love you. Make time for yourself and do something relaxing everyday; you deserve it as a new mother. Give yourself credit for things you are able to accomplish through GODs grace, even if you only get one thing done in a day. I heard Bishop TD Jakes preach the other day"… through pain, there is purpose.” I see as I wipe the tears from my eyes that Treasure You is a great outlet for me to give back what GOD has given me. GOD gave me a second chance at life to raise my beautiful son, Blake. I now experience all of the positive emotions that women feel after giving birth.
On the night of December 31, 2004, my whole world came crashing down in a way I never saw coming. I was always brought up with the understanding that bad things only happen to bad people, but that night forever changed my way of thinking.
I grew up in small-town Texas, where nothing bad ever seemed to happen. Looking back, I was surrounded by a protective bubble. I never received the typical “sex talk” that the majority of teens get before they enter the dating world. I ventured off, naïve and overly trusting.
At 20-years old, I was happy and excited about life. My mom and I were living in Colorado, where she and her friend both consistently pestered me about meeting her friend’s son, also 20. He was on a baseball scholarship out of state and would be home during the holiday season. I finally agreed to meet him one Sunday morning in church. We instantly hit it off, and our relationship took on a life of its own.
New Years Eve rolled around, and we had planned to have a quiet evening with our families. At the last minute, he changed his mind and decided to go to a house party in Denver. I assumed I was invited, but he continued to tell me not to come. “You won’t like my friends. Please, just stay home.” But, I was determined, and he reluctantly gave me the address.
I recall things starting to get fuzzy and dark. During the night, I remember waking up completely naked in an empty bathtub. I called out my boyfriend’s name several times to no avail. He didn’t care. He warned me, and I guess to him that was enough.
When I woke up the next morning, I was out of sorts. Someone I didn’t know was lying next to me with his arm draped around my waist. I was dressed in someone else’s clothes. Baggy pajama bottoms and an oversized sweatshirt. (I’ll never forget those clothes. I held onto them for months afterward, hoping it would bring back memories of that night. ) Shaking uncontrollably, I frantically searched for my belongings. As I reached the front door, there my boyfriend was, lying on the couch with another girl. I fought back tears and walked out, never looking back.
I finally made it home after what seemed like an eternity. I got undressed to get in the shower and realized I was covered in permanent marker from my chest to the bottoms of my feet. I had bruises in the shape of handprints on my backside. The flood of emotions began. Humiliation. Embarrassment. Anger. Sadness. Confusion. I tried to piece the night together but was unsuccessful.
After hours in the emergency room on New Year’s Day, it was determined I had been slipped the date rape drug, rohypnol, and sexually assaulted. I underwent numerous tests and was interviewed by local police officers concerning the “situation.” I refused to give them my boyfriend’s name. He was the only person at the party I knew, and I was still in a state of shock. No way did he have anything to do with this…did he? Charges were never filed.
I was visited by a victim’s advocate with the local rape crisis center. She offered information on counseling and therapy. To this day, I don’t remember her name. But, I remember her face. I’ll never forget it. An angel walked into my life that day and I’ll forever be indebted to her.
I went through years of depression. Past the point of humiliation, I continued to ask myself if what happened to me was my fault. He warned me not to come. I showed up anyway and drank underage. I finally realized that in order to move on with my life and find myself again, I had to come to a point of forgiveness. That was the only thing that would save me.
I prayed. I cried. I drank wine. I decided to blog about my experience and share it on Facebook. The reaction I received was overwhelming. I tracked down an email address for my ex-boyfriend and wrote out my feelings. I don’t know if he ever even received the email, and quite frankly I don’t care. The forgiveness I gave wasn’t for him. It was for me.
I have a love-hate relationship with the idea of forgiving and forgetting. I forgive those who hurt me, but I will never forget it. It is an experience I will carry with me every single day for the rest of my life. I’ve reached a point of understanding what happened to me isn’t my fault. It’s not because I was drinking. It’s not because of what I was wearing. No one asks to be assaulted.
But it has led me to what I believe is the path God has laid out for me—only He has the ability to take a tragedy of this kind and turn it into something good. Once I was able to forgive, I was able to educate and help others. As a certified volunteer at a rape crisis center, I can be there for victims in a way that’s hard to come by—I’ve been where they’ve been.
I’m unbelievably grateful and excited at my second chance. I have been to share my story all over the state of Texas, speaking with the Texas A&M Greek system, two juvenile probation departments, a junior leadership conference, and most recently, at the annual fundraiser for our local rape crisis center in front of hundreds.
I’ve recently been named Ms. West Texas 2014 through the Princess America pageant system and have chosen to use my story and my volunteer work with the Midland Rape Crisis and Children’s Advocacy Center as my platform.
I believe that if you open your world and your heart to volunteering and becoming involved in your community, there’s no greater blessing. I always find it overwhelming when I dive into a project expecting to share my story and bless others, but God has a way of using others…blessing me tenfold. I just know He isn’t finished with me yet.
I am a wife and a mother. I’m also the fourth of six children born to a Methodist preacher and his wife in Douglassville, Texas. My story began in November 1970 when I was just 2-years old.
It was the day before Thanksgiving. My 6-year-old sister and I were standing next to a heater when it exploded, resulting in a house fire. I remember nothing of that day. My sister held on for five days but later died in the hospital from smoke inhalation and burns far greater than my own. The accident left me with disfiguring scars to my face, the loss of the fingers on my left hand and damage to the right.
I endured countless surgeries over the next two decades. During those difficult and formidable years, I developed a passion for sewing. At the age of 5, I began creating doll clothes with a mere needle and thread. My mother fostered that developing desire by purchasing me a red sewing machine for Christmas. I would never be who I am today without my mother. She empowered me with faith, hope and belief in myself. Where others saw disability she saw POSSIBILITY!
In spite of the “no’s”…the doors closed in my face...the times I was overlooked…underestimated…unappreciated...laughed at…pointed at…completely ignored…I have always believed in my ability to become the fashion designer that I believed in my heart I was created to be.
My “ah ha” moment came when I was asked to be a counselor at Camp Sunshine, an organization supporting young burn survivors. It was then I realized that my life was not my own. My strength was not solely for myself. In fact, I had been given another purpose other than fashion designing—that purpose was to design hope.
My story is one of hope. My story is one of perseverance. My story is one of tenacity. My story is to share, with other burn victims or survivors of adversity, the endless opportunities that await them if they can continue to BELIEVE. God chose to spare me that November day, to give me my second chance at life. From that day forward, His divine plan for my life was set into motion.
I’ve been designing since that red sewing machine. I only hope that my mother knew how she empowered me to dream big, to never quit and to boldly respond to the dreaded “you can’t!” with “you better believe that I can!” I don’t dwell on the memories of lengthy hospital stays, surgeries or the painful recoveries that I endured. I focus on my mother saying to me that my outer appearance made me no different than the person next to me, that I could be whomever I chose to be in life as long as I had faith. It’s those words that continue to lift, inspire, and drive me to never stop Designing Hope.
I grew up in a middle-class household in the Pleasant Grove area of Dallas, Texas. I came from a stable, two-parent Christian home, but I wanted to avoid the church-boy image.
By the age of 13, I was partying, drinking and smoking marijuana. And I had joined a gang. At the time—not knowing the seriousness of what I was doing—it was all about fun. The older guys had respect, money, cars and girls. Their lives appeared to be so much fun compared to my church-encompassed life. I wanted to be like them as well as Tupac, Master P and other entertainers.
Two months before high school graduation, my friends and I wanted to go to a big party in Galveston over spring break, but we didn’t have the money. To get the funds quickly, we decided to rob a store. It was so easy we decided to rob another. Before we knew it, we had robbed multiple stores all over DFW in one day. But during our last robbery, there just so happened to be an off-duty police officer using the pay phone across the street. Two miles from the scene, we found ourselves surrounded by policemen and helicopters.
While sitting in the county jail facing a plea to accept a 35-year sentence, I overheard two men in a nearby cell. They were talking about God and what it meant to have a new life in Christ. One of the men looked directly at me and said, "Your life is not over, because God is a God of second chances.”
I immediately broke down and told God I was sorry for running from the church and asked if He would forgive me and allow me to have a second chance. At that moment, I accepted Christ and also told God that however this situation played out, I would honor my commitment to live for Him.
My desire to share my experience has given me the platform to speak at schools, churches, jails and many other places. It has shown teens that the choices they make today will affect their lives tomorrow as well as the lives of those who love them.
My wife and I are now starting a new church in the DFW area. We had our first bible study on January 22, and our official launch for "The Link Church" is scheduled for June. I still have a heart for youth, but my ministry has broadened to include all ages.
God sent someone to me in that little cell to let me know that there is a God that gives second chances. So the least I can do is let God use me to tell others that life is not over, because there are second chances in Christ.