By: Rebecca BrandTruly ... 'The only thing we own is free will and that's to make the right choice about God.'
DADDY TO ABBA:
DADDY TO ABBA:
It all started for me on the 23rd December 1981.
I was born with my twin brother ' we were 3 minutes apart and I was the youngest.
My parents were expecting a healthy sized baby but my mum slipped and fell down bus steps at 7 months pregnant and was rushed to hospital, she was told she was having twins and went straight into labour. The consultant said it was a miracle I was okay, considering he tried to turn the baby a few days before, as he said the baby was breach, when it was actually my legs and my brother's head.
To be a traditional Cornish family, means that girls generally don't have a purpose unless to me, it seems that they are born first into the family. My grandmother on my mum's side felt all girls should be drowned at birth and on my dad's side, very clearly had her favourites - therefore I was unloved by both grandmothers in favour for my brother and cousins throughout my childhood.
My parents had an option to swap me at the hospital. They knew a lady that had just given birth to her fourth son. She was desperate for a little girl and therefore asked to swap babies. Obviously it didn't happen but my dad made it very clear to me early on that he only chose my brother's name and my mum chose mine.
I had a lot of health issues growing up due to not getting the nutrients needed when inside my mum. I weighed 3 lbs and was in the special baby care unit for a while.
The memories of my dad were that he never interacted with me ' ever. When we were young he was only interested in sport and drinking with his friends.
As we got older, my dad would take my brother to football and cricket practise and I was dragged around on the weekends to 'go watch and support him'.
I worked out very quickly that the only way my dad would come to 'watch me' was if I did the same sports as my brother. Therefore when my brother asked to do swimming ' I immediately wanted to do the same. That way at the swim meets, I prayed that he would cheer for me. The one time I heard him cheering, I was so happy - until I was disqualified and the shame I felt from the look I received, I have never forgotten.
My childhood was always a competition between my brother and myself. That is the way, I feel, my dad liked it. My dad's motto is 'second place is first loser'. My dad is very sports oriented and therefore me being the academic out of the two siblings, meant again more rejection - as he couldn't and wouldn't relate to me.
I lost count of the times I was told I wasn't wanted and that he wished he swapped me at birth. I remember the only time I could get him to show me any affection was to ask stupid questions.
So I would say 'Daddy do you love me?'and he would say 'sometimes'. So then I would say 'do you love me now?' and depending on his mood he would say 'no' or 'I love you this much'' his fingers would be an inch apart.
My mum was my rock growing up. Being the sick child, she was always there to nurse me and shower me with affection. She would always be the one to pick me up when I fell and encouraged me to do whatever I wanted.
When I started school, I thrived. I loved school but was bullied terribly in my primary years. I had 'puppy fat' as my mum called it and I began to starve myself to try and make myself pretty. I would put milk in the bottom of my cereal bowl every morning and pretend I had eaten before my mum got up. I would throw my lunch away when no one was around and wouldn't be hungry or felt unwell at dinner time. After about 6 months I got caught throwing my lunch away at school and my Mum was called into the office.
After that, I had someone watch me eat, so would try to string out eating one sandwich by taking millimetre sized bites at a time. The teachers would eventually get bored or side-tracked and I continued to throw what was left of my lunch away.
At 10 years old, I was an accomplished swimmer and gymnast. I also did horse riding for a friend and therefore my figure had changed. I was slender and therefore happy as the bullying stopped for a while.
My confidence grew and I began to get noticed. I was the tallest in my year and at 5ft 4' towered above everyone. I was approached by a modelling agency. I did this for a few years but in the end, wasn't reaching the height required to go further and I thank God for this now, as the modelling industry is a seedy place to be, and wouldn't have been the best place for me.
I was then bullied for being too pretty during my modelling years. I remember my brother standing there watching me get kicked in the head and stomach whilst on the floor one day, because the bullies wanted to 'rearrange my face'. There were four 16 year olds. I was 10 at the time. Later on, I cried to my brother to help me but he replied I deserved all I got and walked off.
My dad told me to fight back next time, after he found out what had happened. If I was hit, I was to hit them back twice as hard. Coming from a family of boxers, he was used to sorting things out a certain way and I felt yet again that I had disappointed him.
My mum, like mothers do, charged to the main bullies parent's house to 'sort things out once and for all' but this only made things worse.
In primary school, my parents went away to Germany on holiday for a week and left me in the care of my grandmother. She took my brother and me to my aunt and uncle's house, where we were told to get out of the house and play with my cousins. More rivalry between my cousins and brother towards me meant that arguments got heated quickly and they ran away from me. I was unsure of how to get back to my aunt and uncle's house and therefore started to wander around the estate. I ended up going the wrong way and got attacked and mauled by a German Sheppard dog, as I walked too near passing it's house. The dog took half of my 'face off'. I collapsed in a heap and somehow my aunt found me and took me to hospital. Thankfully I didn't need skin grafts but my Nan was a coward and never told my parents. I will never forget the horror on my mum's face when she walked into the living room after returning from holiday. They tried to get the owners prosecuted but there was no proof that it was that specific dog that bit me. For years, I would pile the make-up on and to this day, I still notice the scars.
Secondary school saw my brother get bullied but unlike him, I would get involved. We had an awful relationship (primarily due to jealousy from my point of view).
My dad liked this and although I was never a bully, no one messed around with me. I had learnt to not show my true feelings and therefore always had this 'stone faced image' that would stop my true feelings pouring out. To anyone looking in, I was just a bitch who was 'up herself' but I was raised that to cry was to show weakness and my dad would 'give me something to cry about' if I didn't shut up.
I was raised an atheist ' I was banned from any religious education in school and I wasn't allowed to do history, as my dad felt at some point religion would be covered in the syllabus.
My job was to get the 'hallelujah people' to see sense. I remember befriending a girl in secondary school who was a Christian and I would spend a lot of time with her mum and sisters on the weekends. I got offered to go to their youth group one evening and although I thought it was rubbish, I still kept going each week.
In the end I convinced my friend that God was nothing more than a fantasy as the months went by. We remained friends for many years but lost contact in my early twenties due to various reasons.
When I was 15 years old, I began to notice boys. Prior to that - I was a complete tomboy, mainly due to having my twin brother and having the constant need to compete.
I started hanging out with people that went clubbing and drinking from my school. I felt a release that I could be anyone I wanted to be. I was tall and slim for my age ' so adding make up and a barely there outfit, meant I was never ID'd.
I would tell my parents that I was having a sleepover at a friend's house but I just forgot to leave out the part that I would be going to a nightclub and getting paralytic in the small hours.
The first time I went, I had only been in the club for the space of ten minutes before my dad had apparently received four phone calls to say I had been spotted. The next day, my dad asked me how my night was. Instead of grounding me, he just said 'as long as I know where you're going, you can do what you want'. So I did. My mum hated the fact I was out drinking and clubbing at 15 years old but where I come from what dad says, goes.
I became obsessed with a guy that worked with my dad. They would go to the gym together and hung out at football. He was 10 years older than me and at the time, I felt good looking.
I fell, hook, line and sinker.
All of my friends at school fancied him but he asked my dad if he could take me out one night. My dad thought, he was a great guy and that's what dad told my mum. Mum again tried to make me see sense but I had someone paying me attention and I liked it.
We began dating and I got rid of all my school friends as I thought they were now too immature for me. I would hang out with all of my new boyfriend's friends and their partners.
I wanted to go to Veterinary School and had applied to get into college but my boyfriend said that he would miss me too much and couldn't bear the thought of not being together ' so I quit the courses and got a job in insurance at 16 years old.
Dad said it was my life and if that's what I wanted then fine but my mum pleaded for me to see sense ' obviously I knew best and told her to butt out.
My mum and I had a turbulent relationship for years. We would fight and argue all the time and in the end I was practically living with my boyfriend's parents - so we decided to save to buy a house.
The day we moved in, I was proposed to. My dad and my fianc' had already arranged an engagement party for that evening (knowing I would say yes) and I thought life was perfect.
A few weeks later the beatings began.
At first I was shocked and apologised - for I hadn't realised that whatever the thing I had said or done, had made him so angry.
Slowly over the next 2 years, I became his slave. I learnt the hard way - if I hadn't cooked or cleaned to his particular liking, it was always my fault. I 'made him do it' and actually 'no-one else would want me as I was pathetic and ugly'. I believed everything he said.
The beatings were regular and got worse, especially after he drank. He would never hit me on the face so favoured strangling me and beating my torso area, whether it was with his fists or his feet. I was always able to cover the areas of bruising and we lived in a big Victorian house so the walls were thick. My cries for help were nothing more than a muffle to neighbours, I later learned.
I distanced myself from my parents. My dad still thought my fianc' was this amazing guy and my mum always asked why I would go weeks, even months without contact but I got fed up with the lies I told her ' so just didn't bother seeing her in the end. It was obviously 'my fault' anyway and I was scared that my dad would think of me as a failure and to anyone looking in, we were this perfect couple in a perfect relationship.
I was drinking more and more to try and numb the pain and I wouldn't eat as I was told I was disgusting. The sex was non-existent, as he couldn't apparently bring himself to go near me with how vial I was ' I assumed everything that happened, was normal.
I was raped once by him. I remember collapsing at work the next day and going to the doctors due to bleeding. Luckily my periods were always heavy and painful so no-one expected a thing.
After an investigative operation, they discovered my insides were messed up. It didn't help that they found I also had polycystic ovaries, endometriosis and insulin resistance, I was told I was never going to have children.
His reaction was, he would never have wanted them with me anyway, as I'd be a 'shit mother' but I as usual I covered my true feelings and told people I didn't want children as I was career minded.
I remember one night, it was 3am and he was drunk on the sofa. He was screaming and swearing at the TV, which was blaring out of the windows which were all open. I made the mistake of telling him to turn the TV down as I needed to sleep, as I had work the next morning.
I hadn't noticed that he had got off the sofa before I felt the punch in my stomach. I then felt the life going out of me when he started squeezing my throat. It was the first time I raised my hands to him but I punched him in the eye ' although it wasn't hard, it was enough to stop what he was trying to do. There was a slight pause but enough time for me to run into the downstairs bathroom before he tried to smash the door down.
I slept there that night, curled up on the floor with towels as a blanket.
That was also the only time my neighbour heard me screaming for help. He later apologised to my parents for not calling the police.
That was three weeks before our wedding.
I tried to pack my stuff and leave him time and time again but he came home before I got the courage to go. He begged for forgiveness and promised to never do it again. As usual, I believed him. This time it was going to be different as we were getting married so new beginnings and all that.
I had made a promise to myself, that if dad asked whether I was sure I was doing the right thing on the way to the church, then I would tell him everything and we would just go past the church on my horse drawn carriage and he'd make everything better- but that never happened and he never did ask. I realised then how good I had become at lying to those I loved. I walked down the aisle a shell of my former self.
We had a two week honeymoon in Mexico. My husband spent the whole time, getting drunk every night and the bar staff had to carry him back to our room. I would spend the days by the pool on my own, whilst he either slept the hangover off or was flirting with any woman that showed an interest.
One night, I was dancing with one of the girls who worked at the hotel; he took a disliking to this and decided to lock me out of the room. I slept outside the front door, too ashamed to ask for help from reception in fear of what would happen.
The beatings got worse when we returned and I felt life beginning to get out of control. Over the next few months everything became a blur.
My auntie and uncle were visiting my parents and demanded to see me, apparently I was to have no more excuses and I was to get 'my butt over to see them'. I spent the evening with them and I had forgotten how nice it was to laugh freely. I broke down at 10pm that night. Fortunately my dad had gone to bed but I never gave the full story as I felt ashamed of who I was and what had happened.
My uncle broke the news to my dad in the morning.
My ex-husband had found out what was said and panicked. He destroyed my life in more ways than one over the next few months and turned 95% of people against me. Everyone believed that I was cheating on him and walked out after 3 months of marriage.
I lost my house, as everything was in his name as I had been too young to go on the deeds when we bought the house. I lost my so called friends, my job, after I was made redundant and the majority of my family; as he was apparently 'too nice to hit me'.
I started drinking daily and was spiraling out of control. I hit rock bottom and one day my mum walked into my bedroom when I had a knife to my wrists, she started to cry and pleaded for me to think about what I was about to do. I had never seen my mum cry before and it broke me. I vowed never again to get to that point.
One day I received a text from one of my ex-husband's friends. He basically said that he was there if I needed to talk and believed what I had said had happened. I started texting the new guy and unfortunately, went straight into another relationship
My opinion of myself was disgusting at that time and I refused to look in a mirror. Therefore once I had received a small amount of money from my divorce, I went and had breast implants done.
The day before my operation, my dad had a heart attack. I rushed to his bedside and the nurse blamed me for the stress I had caused my dad ' as he was still working alongside my ex-husband and it became too much for him. My dad told me to go as he didn't need me around and therefore I drove to London for the operation. Unfortunately I had a bad reaction to anesthetic and found out that day, I'm allergic to certain drugs. I nearly died on the operating table as I had failed to be revived. I realised how lucky I had been. I never told my parents, due to what had just happened to my father but the recovery was slow and painful after the op.
After I recovered, I dyed my hair and spend hundreds of pounds a month on beauty treatments - you name it, I had it. I created a new me.
My new boyfriend, I thought treated me like a princess and although he was continuously losing his job, I made enough money to support us both with the new job I had secured.
I didn't realise at the time that he was a sexual predator and being my first relationship after my divorce was horrendous ' I was living on cloud 9 with him. Sexually, he would ask requests of me that I didn't feel comfortable with but again being na've, thought this was the norm. Over the next 4 years I did things that I'm not proud of. I remember asking him one day why we couldn't just have a normal relationship but he just said this is normal.
Stupidly I allowed him to take photos of me one day and I realised that he had put these photos all over couples websites. I found this out after becoming suspicious and decided to hack into his email account. I realised that he was leading four different virtual lives and my eyes were suddenly opened to what he was.
I obtained a restraining order after he became obsessive following our split. He broke into my parents' house one night when I refused to speak to him - that's when I realised again how stupid I had been.
My dad by this time had been medically retired. The heart attack had led to depression and he became suicidal. The dad I knew was no more and what was left was a man bitter and who seemed full of hatred. We became even more distant.
Never one to want to be alone, I started getting friendly with someone I met online but the relationship turned serious very quickly on his account and I wasn't ready to settle down.
My dad didn't like the guy due to him once being an adult entertainer and he was also in the wrong ethnic group. When we met, he was making money from property development but he was famous for the wrong reasons and I therefore ended the relationship, as he asked me to move in with him after only a few months of seeing each other.
My last horrendous relationship was with a cage fighter. As you can imagine, this was turbulent to say the least but he only managed to hit me once. At least I had learnt that this wasn't something I wanted for myself.
Unfortunately, he had damaged my knee so much that I required reconstructive knee surgery and at that point, I was in a knee brace. I had taken up boxing and martial arts as a way to channel my aggression but ended up falling stupidly for the owner of the centre. Luckily I ended that relationship and finally took a step back to re-evaluate my life.
By the end of 2005, I was very successful with work and earning a good salary, I had my own home, a sports car on the drive, money in the bank and I had a good set of friends.
NO-ONE WAS GOING TO HURT ME AGAIN
No-one was going to hurt me again but I realised I was going round in circles with disastrous relationships. I was a 25 year old divorcee with 8 years of abuse behind me'so what now?
My knee had become worse and the surgery was scheduled for November 2006. At the time it was March and I was being forced to leave the work I loved, due to not falling for my boss's advances to sleep with him. It was a case of a woman working in a man's world (in Cornwall anyway) and I wasn't going to be sacked.
So I quit my job. The money dried up quickly, as I was unable to work until after the surgery and I ended up getting benefits. I sold my sports car and lived a very humble existence for a while.
I was diagnosed with Raynaud's ' apparently an incurable disease that causes extreme constriction of the blood vessels, leading to tissue hypoxia.
My case was severe and I was eventually classed as disabled. I had a blue badge for my car and some days couldn't even get out of bed. My hands and feet looked that of an elderly woman on the worst days and my medication was up'd to 3 times a day. My mum would even have to cut my food up for me and when an attack was occurring, I couldn't walk.
In short, I was miserable.
One of my brother's best friends had moved in with us after his mum had moved to France and he wanted to stay in the UK. He invited me to go round to a mutual friend of ours one day to watch DVD's, so that I could get out of the house. I had known this family from secondary school, as I had gone to school with their eldest son who had tragically died at 13 years old and so we had lost contact since then.
When I walked in, I was greeted by Dave and Wendy and their twin sons. I noticed immediately how happy they seemed and thought that was nice. I was intrigued by them but unsure as to why. Also I noticed that in comparison to my dad's standards, they had very little as to luxury furniture and belongings and wondered why this was the case. After all, everyone wanted the latest gadgets on the market'right?
When I got home, I found that Dave and Wendy kept creeping into my mind but just assumed it was because I hadn't seen them for over 10 years at that stage.
The next day, they invited me over again, so I went and I realised that there were numerous bibles and theology books on the shelves and references to God. Instead of running a mile, I started to ask questions and over the coming weeks kept going back. I had a thirst.
A few weeks later, they asked me if I would like to go to church one Sunday with them. The family attended a local Baptist Church and thought I should check it out. I declined but regretted it when I got home later that day.
I unexpectedly woke up early that Sunday and found myself driving to their house before they had left for church. I was shaking during the car journey and too petrified to go into the actual church, so they left me in the foyer where I could hear and see what was going on from a distance.
There was no way I was going into that place as everyone would be able to see straight through me and I thought I would be judged. I did this for a few weeks and eventually I plucked up the courage to actually go into the worship area. Although I still refused to sing the songs for a long time, as that meant I wasn't actually attending church in my head!
I would spend the time during the service with a new friend, who at the time was also a non-Christian and not only give reasons as to why we didn't think 'this' was for us but also put the world to rights.
I started meeting with the minister, Charles, during the week and slowly he began to answer the endless amount of questions I had. No matter how small and trivial they seemed to me, I was adamant that if he couldn't answer everything, then this Christian malarkey was not for me. Sure enough all the questions were answered and I began to sing the songs without realising.
On my journey there was only one scripture that kept coming to me over and over again. Matthew 7:7 says 'Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you.'
One Sunday, I started to cry for what I could see no apparent reason. The tears flowed freely and the more I tried to stop, the more I sobbed. I saw that Charles was watching me and when the sermon had finished, he came and sat by me. The tears were still streaming down my face and he asked what was wrong.
All I replied was 'I have no more questions and I don't know what's next'.
Charles smiled and replied 'give your life to the Lord ' what do you have to lose?' I just looked at him confused but arranged to see him a few days later. I felt exhausted and just wanted to go back home.
I gave my life to the Lord in July 2006 and the first thing I did was phone Wendy. She cried with me down the phone. I then went back to my parents and wrote a letter to my dad, as I didn't have the nerve to tell him in person.
He went absolutely mental and threw me out of the house. He told me to get out until I saw sense and I stood in the driveway with nowhere to go. I wasn't allowed back for 3 weeks ' we didn't speak during that time and my only communication was with my mum when my dad wasn't around. I stayed with Dave and Wendy and they became my spiritual parents and still are.
When I was allowed back - I was quickly advised by my dad, that this 'Christian shit' was a taboo subject and never to be mentioned in his house.
I was baptised in September 2006. My mum and brother attended but my dad did not. I actually have respect for him doing this, as at least he was being true to who he was.
Being baptised, I naively imagined a perfect life thereafter, where the Holy Spirit would allow me to live in the modern day society, without being persecuted or led down the wrong path. I had made too many mistakes in my life and this was my new beginning ' Christ forgave my sins and I was born again.
THE TRUTH IS BEING A CHRISTIAN IS ACTUALLY HARDER
The truth is being a Christian is actually harder. For the simple reason that your eyes are now opened and it makes you realise that we simply make mistakes.
I continued to walk the wrong path as a new Christian and I had also started going out with Dave and Wendy's son, prior to the baptism. It became apparent very quickly that we weren't right for each other but I kept thinking it was me as usual.
I would forget to ask for God's guidance with the situations that I was facing yet cry out His name at the last second. Yet God was always walking with me, trying to show me the right way ' I just wasn't listening! In Proverbs 3:5-6 it says 'Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him; and he will make your paths straight'
Shortly after being baptised, I met with one of the Elders, Jenni. She often goes through the '10 steps to freedom in Christ' with people. I met with her on a weekly basis to go through this as I wanted to let go of all the hurt.
2 big things happened from going through those steps:
1. I was able to forgive the men of my past for the things that had happened.
2. My Raynauds was cured. Jenni felt I should stop taking my medication after praying. Therefore trusting in the Lord, I stopped that day and gave up my disability badge and income. It was my first miracle of many to come.
My parents were going to be away when I was scheduled to have my reconstructive knee surgery and therefore they had arranged for my brother to pick me up from the hospital 24 hours later.
A male nurse came to walk me down to the theatre and then when I got out of the lift, a female nurse came up to me. She looked at me and replied 'that man that is being wheeled out of theatre would be just perfect for you'. She then walked off. I smiled but thought nothing of it.
The next day, I was bed bound and Kieren walked into my hospital room.
Kieren had gone to college with my brother but we had lost frequent contact with each other from 18 years old and onwards. We would see each other when out clubbing every once and a while and he'd drop me home to make sure my girlfriends and I were safe but the relationship was always platonic.
It was amazing to see a friendly face and after saying hello ' the first thing I said to him was 'I gave my life to the Lord recently, I am a Christian'. Kieren looked at me puzzled but said 'that's nice for you'.
We chatted for a few minutes but then a nurse told Kieren off for being out of bed and he was ushered to his room. That's when I realised he was the man the nurse mentioned was first on the list and I was second.
Apparently he said that the female nurse had gone up to him when he was in recovery to say that the lady going into surgery was the woman for him.
He only realised I was in hospital when he saw my mum dashing to my hospital room to check on me before going away for a few days.
Kieren and I started seeing each other in December 2006.
I was smitten but I had remembered praying to God a few weeks before my operation that I didn't want to make the same mistakes in life anymore and therefore the next man that came into my life was to be God given. For the first time, I was content at the thought of being on my own - however long that took.
On our first date, Kieren cooked for us at my flat and I decided that if he was to love me for me, he would have to except my past. I remember once Kieren sat down, I started to tell him about everything that had happened to me.
He was the first person I had ever told the whole story too and he sat there listening and not saying a word. When I had finished, I looked up and Kieren was very silent and didn't say anything to start with. I asked if he was okay. Kieren said that the information was too much to take in and he had to go. He got up and walked out. I didn't hear from him for 3 days after that night.
I was confused to say the least but I prayed that God would make it clear to me if Kieren was His gift to me. I remember telling God that he had to give me 10 clear signs and they needed to be specific ' like Kieren was to ring me at 10pm on Tuesday night, another was Kieren was to bring me a bouquet of lilies and he was to take me on a weekend away break with no ulterior motive at some point. I also said that if Kieren loved me, it was to love me for me and not for my body ' therefore Kieren was happy to wait until marriage to have sex.
Kieren texted me later that week, to say that he saw a future with me and was sorry for not being in contact before.
God graciously showed me my 10 signs without Kieren obviously knowing them and we fell in love.
Kieren and I actually booked our wedding in Sri Lanka before getting engaged after 4 weeks of dating! We were talking one weekend and found ourselves in travel agents and booked it there and then. We told our parents that if they wanted to celebrate our wedding with us, then they had better start saving. Confused they asked where my ring was and we replied we're not engaged yet.
Two months later Kieren proposed on top of Pendennis Castle overlooking Falmouth. He got down on one knee and poured his soul out. I on the other hand, had just tripped over the wood trusses and couldn't stop giggling after turning around to see him with the ring in his hand. Everything was perfect!
The elders at my Church were concerned, as were my friends ' some thought it was spiritual suicide, especially for a young Christian. In 2 Corinthians 6:14 it says 'Do not be unequally yoked with unbelievers. For what partnership has righteousness with lawlessness? Or what fellowship has light with darkness?' but my minister met with me to discuss our plans for marriage.
Charles also met with Kieren soon after and he said to elders that although he wasn't a betting man, he knew that Kieren would give his life to the Lord at some point. Together with me saying he was my gift from God, my minister gave his blessing.
Kieren was raised Irish Catholic and fell into a coma at 6 months old from contracting Meningitis. When he woke up the child that lay in a hospital bed on one side of him had died and on the other side a child had had his arms and legs amputated as well as being severely brain damaged.
Kieren's only effect from it was he had developed ADD and ADHD. He was uncontrollable but his mum fought hard not to have him medicated. He was sent to the nun's and was unfortunately badly mistreated in a bid to try and make him behave but in the end, he turned his back on God in his early teens.
Kieren often was described as the most Christian non-Christian that people had met. He had started coming to church just before we got married as he wanted to 'support me' but had no part in the singing or listening to the sermon.
He was there in body but not in spirit. I prayed daily that he would give his life before we wed but God kept reassuring me of Jeremiah 29:11. 'For I know the plans I have for you,' says the Lord. 'They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope'
Three days before we flew to Sri Lanka to marry, I saw my main consultant about my gynecological issues. By this time, I had been told by 4 separate consultants that my dreams of becoming a mum were pointless.
Medically I could not have children. They had decided the best course of action was to give me a total hysterectomy. At 26 years old, this was a drastic measure but one they thought necessary to stop the suffering I was enduring day in, day out. I begged them to let us try for a baby once we were married and it was agreed that they would 'humour me' and we could have 3 months. The operation would then be performed.
Our wedding was perfect. The honeymoon even better and 6 weeks later we arrived back in the UK continuing to live with Kieren's parents in a bid to save for our marital home. We had moved in with them 6 months prior to the wedding whilst we rented out my bachelorette pad.
Again people found this difficult that we actually lived together ' as how can you not have sex? In Hebrews 13:4 'Let marriage be held in honour among all, and let the marriage bed be undefiled, for God will judge the sexually immoral and adulterous' Kieren respected my wishes not to have sex before marriage and that is what happened.
SOME DAYS WERE TOUGH
Don't get me wrong some days it was tough. 14 months of being with that special someone day in, day out meant the devil tried to get into our thoughts but God is good and faithful and we knew that we had our whole lives to be together intimately.
People today have said to me that they wished they had what Kieren and I have. I think that when you have found Mr or Mrs Right to not have sex as the basis of your relationship, is a powerful thing. As then when difficult things happen in life, the relationship doesn't crumble. Kieren is and will always be my best friend.
The first month of being back in the UK, I fell pregnant. We knew around 4 weeks but my consultants told me that I was wrong. So many pregnancy tests later and a trip to my GP it was concluded, I was most definitely pregnant.
The consultants still to this day say they are unsure of how we managed it but I knew this baby was another miracle from God.
My pregnancy was far from easy and by 8 weeks pregnant, I was in excruciating pain. The scan revealed I was still carrying but they diagnosed me with SPD (symphysis pubis dysfunction) I was signed off work for 4 months and told to rest. I was classed as a high risk pregnancy due to the previous issues with my kidneys and when I was around 6 months pregnant I was rushed into hospital again. My kidneys had started failing and I became very ill. Kieren was taken aside and told that he was to choose between our baby girl and me. At the time, I was unaware of the decision made, primarily due to every mother's natural instinct to protect her child but slowly my condition eased and the baby survived as well. I was monitored weekly and went into labour 2 weeks before my due date. I remained in labour for the whole of that time having contractions day and night for 14 days but my midwife felt that whilst our little girl was happy, I was fine to stay as I was.
Our daughter was born after 18 hours of pushing. I remember the consultant telling me that I had 20 minutes to get her out or he was going to give me a C-section. I had not so politely replied for him, to go away and he wasn't going to come near me.
I wanted a Hebrew name and Kieren wasn't opposed to this idea anyway so we both fell in love with the name Sarai.
At 3 weeks old, Sarai developed breathing problems. She had sleep apnea but unfortunately was such a deep sleeper she would stop breathing altogether. An ambulance dashed to our home after she turned blue one evening and she was diagnosed. We were then advised to have a camera in her room and a monitor under her mattress to alarm us when Sarai would stop breathing. The first 9 months of Sarai's life was hard. Sleep was a minimum and as per most relationships with new-borns our relationship suffered.
There was tension on both sides of the family due to jealousy from Kieren's sister for wanting a child of her own and also having medical issues. My brother's girlfriend at the time also found it hard that we had had a child before them and so I became a recluse.
I had gained 25 kilos/ 4 stone during my pregnancy. Unfortunately due to my eating issues when younger, I fought hard not to let the pregnancy affect what I would eat but over compensated and then felt disgusted within my own body. Although I wasn't diagnosed I knew I was depressed and Kieren one day told me he was finding it hard living with a ghost. I was 'existing not living' and something needed to be done.
I STARTED HAVING VIOLENT NIGHTMARES
I had started having my violent nightmares again which had resurfaced after seeing my ex-husband one day. I was attacking Kieren during the night and he urged me to get help.
A friend recommended I try Rewind Therapy. This is a therapy that helps sufferers put a traumatic incident behind them by stopping unwanted thoughts and images intruding into their lives. In short ' it changed my life and slowly I became me again.
My medical issues came back tenfold after having Sarai and in April 2010, aged 27 the consultants took the decision away from me to have more children. I had a total hysterectomy. Kieren had had a vasectomy 2 months after Sarai was born, as he had only ever wanted one child but swore to never put me through the hell of pregnancy again.
I felt cheated and hurt by God. How could I go through life thinking I couldn't have children, yet He gives me a miracle and then takes away my chance of having more?
I still struggle with this today but I now realise that Sarai was a miracle and we are so blessed to have her in our lives. I was looking at the negatives rather than seeing our true blessing. People always seemed to come to the scripture in Genesis 28:3 'May God Almighty bless you and make you fruitful and increase your numbers until you become a community of peoples' That was what we were put on earth to do, even the bible states this. I again felt a failure.
My in-laws were disappointed that Kieren had had a vasectomy. The atmosphere was frosty to say the least and I was blamed for not giving my father-in-law a grandson, which apparently was 'my duty' to carry on the name. I was also told that every pregnancy is different by my mother-in-law. Kieren pointed out that both Sarai and I had nearly died but it didn't seem to hold much value. My in-laws then said they were joking but I felt their true feelings had been revealed. My mum on the other hand was just grateful that I was still alive and she had a grandchild. My dad said I had ruined my life and that we should have just carried on enjoying life. If he had had his time over again ' dad definitely wouldn't have had children.
My father had his first stroke in May 2010. We were away staying at Kieren's sisters at the time when I received a frantic telephone call from my mum. We were 4 hours away but rushed back to be with him as soon as possible. Although my dad fully recovered medically, he was a changed man and became even more difficult to be around. He had another mini stroke a few months later, which isn't uncommon but he still doesn't think I know after making my dum promise to keep it a secret.
Since then he has battled with his health. Still denying there is an issue with drink as he only binge drinks on the weekends and holidays but that is acceptable in his eyes.
He still goes through stages of becoming severely depressed with the voices inside his head and nightmares after his mum died in his arms a few years ago, after she bleed out from lung cancer. My Nan drowned in her own blood whilst dad was trying to resuscitate her.
Dad has pushed nearly everyone away especially over the last 10 years. My Mum is still with him, she is strong and one of the most selfless people I know. She just says that she took her vows and meant them, so hopes that he will get through the bitterness and anger in time.
About 4 years ago, the Lord gave me a clear message to foster children. I didn't want to adopt another child at that time but loved the idea of helping as many as we could. Therefore we started having parent and child placements in September 2010.
In October 2010, Sarai was teething badly. Unfortunately, she was prone to ear infections during this time and one of the infections developed and spread to her brain. Sarai was rushed into hospital and was very poorly.
Kieren had to stay at home with the foster placement at that time until the agency could find someone for respite and this is by far one of the hardest things he has had to do as a parent. To choose to stay and protect a child that isn't yours over your own child that was critically ill.
Sarai lay in the bed motionless and I was told that they were unsure whether they had got to the infection in time. I prayed out loud to God to save her and to make her whole again. I remember this calmness and peace spread over me and I realised my prayers had changed.
I thanked God for giving me the opportunity to experience what it was to be a mum and that Sarai ultimately was his. I then prayed that if this was her time, then I didn't want her to suffer anymore and to let His will be done.
By the morning, Sarai was sat up in bed and was her cheeky self again. I thanked God for yet another miracle in my life. Sarai was given a clean bill of health and told she was a very lucky little girl.
Kieren struggled when I told him what happened and couldn't understand how I could just give up on our child so easily. I tried to explain but realised that he would never understand why I prayed what I did.
Kieren was hurting and we had many disagreements regarding my faith and his inability to give his life to the Lord over time.
We fostered for around 3 years and it was hard going. Sarai was emotionally targeted by the moms and physically hurt on more than one occasion by the children we had - at times I remember crying out to the Lord asking why?
GOD'S WAY GENERALLY ISN'T THE EASIEST
Yet I would take a step back and realise that He saw the bigger picture. God's way generally isn't the easiest and although there were tough times, I now don't regret a single moment.
The moms and teenagers still speak of their time with us and one even gave her life to the Lord. The children are all thriving and Sarai is a well-balanced little girl who accepts everyone, no matter what their background, into her life.
Following the pregnancy weight gain, in 2011 I still had issues with the size of my breasts compared to the frame of my body. I then stood at 34GG and was in agony from my back and neck hurting.
God had put on my heart that I no longer needed the implants and that I needed to love myself. I'm not referring to the stuck-up, worldly type of loving oneself but talking about a concept of being thankful, and appreciating the person who God has made me to be. Much is said on how we are to forgive others, but many of us seem to skip over the concept of forgiving ourselves. Hebrews 12:15 'See to it that no one falls short of the grace of God and that no bitter root grows up to cause trouble and defile many'
Regardless of what we've done in our pasts, whether it be an abortion, fornication, or some gross and embarrassing sin, it's vital that we forgive ourselves from everything in our pasts that we are ashamed of. If God chose to forget our sins then shouldn't I forget them too? In Isaiah 43:25 it says 'I, even I, am he who blots out your transgressions, for my own sake, and remembers your sins no more.'
God's word says that He has actually removed our sins from us! If we continually beat ourselves up it's known as false guilt, and is a tool of the enemy - to pull us down. If we still associate ourselves with our sinful past, then we need to change the way we see things and therefore I made the decision to have my implants taken out. I got rid of the false nails and became me. The person that God loves and who you see today.
In 2012 on Easter Sunday, Kieren gave his life to the Lord. A few months before that, I had felt the need to challenge Kieren. Not an easy task but disagreements regularly would be had and I would be on my hands and knees crying out to the Lord. God would just keep giving me the scripture from 1 Corinthians 7:14-16 'For the unbelieving husband is made holy because of his wife, and the unbelieving wife is made holy because of her husband. Otherwise your children would be unclean, but as it is, they are holy.'
My mother-in-law found it hard when Kieren said he was getting baptised. She told him that he had already had his confirmation as a child and therefore saw this as nonsense. Kieren replied that he had never known God up until now.
The most interesting thing for me was that my dad came to Kieren's baptism. He sat for around half of the service before walking out but I said nothing to him.
Dad had also gone to Sarai's dedication at church. When I challenged him on this, he just replied 'I would only do it for her not you, as you're not important'.
We were over our friends for lunch one day and we got talking about New Zealand. One of our friends is half Kiwi and talks fondly of his memories growing up periodically there. These friends have helped shaped us, into the Christian family we are today and we are truly blessed to have them in our lives.
Kieren was given a clear message from God a few days later to teach to make a difference in NZ. He came home and told me what had been said and we started the process to move in July 2012.
The doors literally threw themselves open to reveal God's plan and our Christian family knew that God was at work. The devil on the other hand was also trying to stop this from happening, mainly through our families as naturally they wanted us to stay close and to see Sarai and a lot of guilt was placed on us. If the devil can't stop you he will try to confuse you. 'Be self-controlled and alert. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.' (1 Peter 5:8) On more than one occasion, I doubted God's plan because of what they said but Kieren and I stood firm ' united together through Christ.
I tried to hold on to our processions when we were selling our house. I thought these were things were precious and "mine" when in fact they are all materialistic. I was taught an important lesson and reminded that God owns everything in this world ' it says in Psalms 24:1 'The earth is the Lord's, and everything in it, the world, and all who live in it' Even our souls are his. Ezekiel 18:4 says 'Behold, all souls are mine; as the soul of the father, so also the soul of the son is mine: the soul who sins, he shall die.' The only thing we own is free will and that's to make the right choice about God.
God stripped us bare over the last 12 months in the UK. It was hard to let go but we became loyal and took that step of faith. Since then we have never felt so liberated, so loved and so free.
I took another leap of faith, when I stood up against my morally and ethically corrupt employer months before we left the UK. 16 years in insurance and I handed in my notice. Kieren and I needed the money more than ever at that time but God wanted us to walk by faith and we were being tested, beyond what we thought our limits were. Yet God provided. In Matthew 6:31-32 'So do not worry, saying, 'What shall we eat?' or 'What shall we drink?' or 'What shall we wear?' For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them'
GOD WANTS US TO BE HIS BEACON OF LIGHT
God also wants us to be his beacon of light. In Matthew 5:14-16 'You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven'
We generally look at monetary issues with employment and life - when we should be looking at the bigger picture and why certain circumstances have presented themselves. How can we glorify God? That is what Kieren and I try to ask in every situation. 1 Corinthians 10:13 'No temptation has overtaken you except what is common to mankind. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can endure it'
Our families told us that NZ was nothing more than a pipe dream and 10 months on, our house was still on the market to sell and Kieren had no job offer in New Zealand. So the devil started to get into our thoughts.
Yet - living by faith, God rewards His faithful servants and Kieren not only got an amazing job offer but we completed contracts on our house, the very same day!
We had an emotional time leaving the UK for New Zealand in January 2014. It was hard to say goodbye to family and friends ' some for the last time. God gave us this overwhelming peace when we got in the car to drive to the airport. In John 14:27 it says 'Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid'
In the first few weeks of arriving in New Zealand we achieved so much from God walking with us and trusting in Him. He still continues to provide for us even now; for example we had exactly the right amount of money in order to set up home and to pay the bills.
There are always obstacles, always will be, but we are now settled into Elim East and every time we walk in, we feel God's presence.
The very first day we went there, God clearly said to me 'welcome home' and we were both brought to tears from His presence.
I felt very much at home straight away in Howick but I didn't feel like I had a purpose. Kieren's message was clear and Sarai was excelling at school. After the first 2 weeks of being here, I suddenly felt very alone. Not in the sense that I wanted to go back to the UK but what did God have in store for me? What was my journey?
In Philippians 3:13 it says 'Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead' That is what I wanted to do. So I prayed and two very clear messages came to me:
1. I was to share my testimony from beginning to end (even the bad bits)
2. I needed to go to Bible College to learn scripture in order to back up the first message.
I laughed, then cried and then cried some more. The only person to ever know everything besides God was Kieren. A couple of friends in the UK knew some of my past but to share it with potential strangers petrified me. My instant reaction was I was going to be rejected all over again. That people would look down on me for the things God forgave me for.
I prayed some more and decided that you can read the bible, go to church and not really know God's faithfulness, His love and His plan for you.
Until you really know God, you have no anchor in your life but when you know whose you are, you'll begin to understand who you are, what you're supposed to do, and where you're supposed to be and sometimes you have to reach your lowest point to understand who God is and what He can do for you.
I decided to share my basic testimony recently with the Elim women. I broke down before I'd even spoken a word. I was surrounded by my new friends ' my Christian family but all of a sudden a voice in my head said 'get ready to be judged', however I pushed my demons to one side and the words that God wanted me to share that day just came out.
I also decided to find out what my spiritual gifts are, as I was aware that these might change over time. Quite clearly my gifts are to encourage the spiritual growth of others and wisdom followed closely by mercy. This made me smile as it reinforced my messages given by God recently.
My previous gifts were mercy and hospitality ' which was during the periods that I fostered. In Romans 12:6 it says 'We have different gifts, according to the grace given to each of us.' Today these are now prophecy and encouraging the spiritual gifts of others, followed closely by mercy.
I am at peace with my path that God wants me to now walk. I now know that I had to wait until I came to New Zealand to go on this journey, as in the UK I would have had spiritual attack from all angles. God made me what He wanted me to be. I am redeemed and ready to fulfil God's plan for my life. I start Ministry Training College in a few months, should the finances come through.
I have realised that until you stop comparing yourself with others, you will never be able to give birth to the gifts God has placed within you. So thank God for making you who you are, and believe that He is transforming you day by day into the person He wants you to become.
I recently heard someone say that life is having the confidence to go into the unknown.
To me that sums up what being a Christian is all about.
PLEASE HELP SHARE THE BEST NEWS GOD HAS FOR EVERY PERSON!
"And this gospel of
the kingdom [Jesus
died for sinners] shall be preached in all the world for a
witness unto all nations; and then shall the end come."
(Quote from Jesus Himself: Matthew 24:14).
Consider how many children in "all the nations" have never heard YET what Jesus accomplished for THEM at the cross? PLEASE HELP SPREAD THE GOOD NEWS TO THE LITTLE CHILDREN!
To help us share the Best News every person needs to hear on this planet, randomly click FOR JESUS on just three (3) of the JESUS DID IT! links below. It will take just a few moments of your time. Please - that's all you are asked to do. God will reward you! (Of course, be highly encouraged to forward one of these video clips to those who may have never heard what Jesus did for them on the cross ... especially young people). Thank you so much!
JESUS DID IT! JESUS DID IT! JESUS DID IT! JESUS DID IT! JESUS DID IT! JESUS DID IT! JESUS DID IT! JESUS DID IT! JESUS DID IT! JESUS DID IT! JESUS DID IT! JESUS DID IT! JESUS DID IT! JESUS DID IT! JESUS DID IT! JESUS DID IT! JESUS DID IT! JESUS DID IT! JESUS DID IT! JESUS DID IT! JESUS DID IT! JESUS DID IT! JESUS DID IT! JESUS DID IT! JESUS DID IT! JESUS DID IT! JESUS DID IT! JESUS DID IT! JESUS DID IT! JESUS DID IT! JESUS DID IT! JESUS DID IT! JESUS DID IT! JESUS DID IT! JESUS DID IT! JESUS DID IT! JESUS DID IT! JESUS DID IT! JESUS DID IT! JESUS DID IT! JESUS DID IT! JESUS DID IT! JESUS DID IT! JESUS DID IT! JESUS DID IT! JESUS DID IT! JESUS DID IT! JESUS DID IT! JESUS DID IT! JESUS DID IT! JESUS DID IT! JESUS DID IT!
For anyone living in the continental U.S. who would like 50 FREE copies of JESUS DID IT! to be made available to others, simply email us requesting them and provide us your mailing address. We'll be glad to send them to you, as long as ministry funds allow.
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For those who would like to learn more about how God is using me, you
can follow me more at: http://saf-ministries.org/
For those who would like to learn more about how God is using me, you can follow me more at: http://saf-ministries.org/