ONCE WRAPPED IN A WEB OF DARKNESS - NOW WRAPPED IN GOD'S PURPOSE, LIGHT AND LOVE!
(By: Dana Joiner)
I believe it's important to tell the whole truth of who we were before Jesus. I am in no way glorifying my past. Just being very honest about where I came from. I pray my testimony gives hope to the hopeless.
My earliest memories are full of humiliation, confusion, rejection and anger. When I was five we moved to Manteca, California from the bay area. It was a very big change. At such an early age I didn't understand why the people were so different. Later I realized that it was a neighborhood heavily infested with meth. The kids knew way too much and were quick to teach me. I was abused in various ways countless times by the older kids in the neighborhood, and when I wasn't being hurt, I was robbed for my stuff. I used to let kids just take off with my stuff because I knew I really had no choice.
Around that time I started having night terrors. Terrible, demonic dreams that left me paralyzed with fear in my bed. I would wake up screaming nearly every night from the time I was 6 until I was around 11. CPS came to my house because the neighbors thought someone was beating me. I made my mom sleep with me all the time and there was never a peaceful night in our house.
I became a very fearful, unhappy, angry child. I was exposed to way too much way too early and it made me insecure and ashamed. I started hating school, and getting into trouble. In 4th grade I was expelled for the first time.
I had experiences with the Lord from a very early age and was filled with the Holy Spirit. I began walking in an evangelistic calling at around eight. I have a memory of leading a teenager to Jesus and I remember hearing songs about Jesus that my mom would play, and I would cry with compassion over what Jesus went through for me. But the enemy attacked early to knock me off course.
I know when I think back that the Lord was with me. When I was five I almost lost my life in a car accident, when I went flying head first towards the front wind shield from the back seat. My mom caught me by my leg or I would have went through it. At age nine I was at the lake with some friends. One of them drifted out too far and started drowning. So I reached for him and he panicked and pushed me into the deep water and I remember being under the water for a long time. I didn't know how far under I was. I just knew I was going to die. I remember thinking 'Jesus!! Jesus!! Jesus!!' And the third time I called on his name I felt my left hand grab something. It was a branch that was hanging into the water from a nearby tree. I pulled myself up with it and it kept me from drowning. I truly believe that was divine intervention from the Lord!
At age 14, I climbed a bridge over a lake that was a train track. I was right in the middle of the bridge when I heard the train horn. I was too scared to jump and too far to run back where I came so I froze. I leaned against the small wire fence that bordered the tracks and the train passed inches from my body. I was with a friend and I remember her yelling for me to duck, and I look and a huge metal wire was hanging out from one of the boxcars and it nearly sliced out throats.
In junior high I was a nobody at school and home. I would make people laugh all the time and act like a fool when I was dying inside. I went to church but I didn't have anyone to really guide me and walk with me. I saw a lot of hypocrisy and was even treated bad at church so I quit going. I saw church as a place a bunch of stuck up people met up to act Holy and socialize.
My home life was unhappy and there was a lot of strife between my parents and I tried to stay away from home as much as I could. I used to pray that they would divorce just so they could stop hating each other.
Once my mom and dad did separate for awhile. My mom and I ended up homeless and living in motels and at people's houses. That time of our life was very hard. Eventually we got an apartment on the other side of the tracks, and one day my dad was back.
One day at school this really popular chick started in on me. She was pretty much punking me. I was used to that whole situation. But something different happened inside me. The more she talked and the more kids that gathered, the more angry I got. I was so tired of being me. I didn't care what happened anymore. She pushed me and I lost it. All those years of humiliation had gotten to me. I beat her down. And that was the beginning of the change. I remember walking into class after it was over and my whole body was shaking. People's jaws were to the floor. Like 'Did Dana just really do that?!' Some kids laughed and was like, 'Good job!' Now I had a new way to handle things and got much attention for my newfound rage.
By 8th grade I was expelled for fighting. It became a hobby to practice. Something to invest time and effort into. I was good at it and it made me somebody (I thought). My friends changed, I started messing with gangs and drugs. It got pretty bad. We moved to a new city after the gang unit had come to my house asking my mom questions because of some violent acts that had happened. I ran away all the time. I went from place to place, just worried about my 'homies.' I didn't care about my family anymore. I felt they didn't understand me and didn't accept me. I figured I could make my own family. I took pride in being fearless on the outside. I would fight anyone, men, women, even groups of people. The more ruthless I became the more I was impressed with myself. I invited a murderous spirit in my life daily. Anger felt better than humiliation. But on the inside I was a coward. I would run from emotions, responsibility, etc.
AT 15 I BEGAN USING METH
At age 15, I went to my first keg party and was raped there while my 'home girl' sat in the next room with some dude she just met. I know she heard me yelling. Years later I found out that guy and his homies had a bet going as to who could get the most virgins. Last I heard he was on the run for doing the same thing to a 14 year old girl. At 15 I also began using meth. My best friend's parents were dealers so we got all we could handle. I was also put in a mental hospital after I had swallowed a bottle of pills and went and got into a brawl right after. I was on medication for years. All I did was mix it with street drugs and it made me more numb and heartless than before. I remember one time I laid in my home girls bed for two days convulsing and hyperventilating from an overdose and I refused to let them call an ambulance.
At 16 a rival attempted to stab me with so much force that it would have gutted me like a fish, but the Lord made my reflexes quick, despite me being sloppy drunk and I walked away with a small cut, and a torn shirt. At 18 I was set up and forced to fight six females. I did my best but was outnumbered. The last thing I remembered was looking up and seeing a 40 ounce bottle headed right for my head. I remember the strange hollow thud sound it made as it met with my skull over and over.
When I woke up, it was daylight. Everyone was gone and I was laying in a puddle of my own blood. I was bleeding from so many places. I had blood all over my shoes and shirt, my face and hair. I got up and could barely walk. I had almost made it to my homegirl's house when an ambulance, police car, and fire truck all surrounded me. Someone had called them seeing me stumble down the street I guess. I wouldn't let them take me at first. I thought I was too tough to need help. Then they pressed a white towel against my face and when they pulled it away I saw so much blood that it scared me. So I went to the Emergency room. Later on I found out that one of those girls was supposed to have stabbed me that night as part of a gang initiation. But she refused. As a result she was beaten by her own people. My mom didn't get any sleep that night because people had been calling her saying they were going to leave me for dead on the train tracks (Which were right by our house). So every time a train passed my mom was terrified that I was under it.
I remember one night I was in an orchard with some friends. I wandered off by myself, drunk, lonely and hopeless. I climbed up into this huge well and I tested God. I lifted myself in and out of this deep well, one hand on each side, tempting death, asking the Lord if he cared about me.
When I was 18 I also met my son's dad. My first love. I fell way too fast and thought he did too. The Lord gave me a warning in a dream and a vision about this man but I fell deep into the relationship anyway. Three months later I was pregnant. I spent my pregnancy miserable and desperate. I would cry myself to sleep because he would stay out all night with his people. When he would come home we would box and we gave each other many black eyes and bloody noses. I remember tracking him down at a friends. I was six months pregnant, running up on carloads of people just swinging on my man out of sheer pain. I was so co-dependent it was crazy. I wouldn't let him go for nothing. During one of our fights the cops came. And they told me to let him leave. I refused to comply and was charged with battery on a peace officer and went to jail. So there I was, with a newborn baby, doing AWP because I didn't want to spend time in jail as a new mother.
I REMEMBER HIM HOLDING A GUN TO MY HEAD ONE DAY BECAUSE HE WAS SO FAR GONE ON DOPE
I would leave him hundreds of times in an 8-year span, but always took him back. I wanted to be loyal. I thought my love could change things, change him. But I only enabled him to keep living crazy. I supported his drug habit. Then went deep into my own. We lived on welfare for years. He couldn't hold a job; neither could I. We were both hopeless and empty inside. I remember him holding a gun to my head one day, all gone off that dope. No matter how much anyone tried to help us, we could never leave our mentality behind and look higher.
I remember seeking the Lord a few times during those years. I heard the Lord urging me to leave him. I knew as long as I stayed I would never submit my life to God fully. But I was so mad at God. I asked him why he would ask me to leave my man when he was supposed to make families better, not tear them apart. So I would reach out to God, but chose my man over his leading, time after time.
I was put in the mental hospital again; (diagnosed with homicidal tendencies) this time I committed myself after I had beat a friend up and stabbed her in the face. I truly felt that rage had taken over. I was out of control and didn't trust myself.
I was heavily addicted to pain pills (vicodin and morphine) and as long as my man let me have my habit, I let him have his (meth). By now our son was older and starting to display social problems. He didn't know how to talk to people, because all his mommy and daddy did was cuss and yell and hit each other. And he didn't know what a loving environment was, only chaos.
I left my son's dad for about a month because of his meth use and cheating. But what's ironic is I began using meth again while we were apart. I ran into old friends. And when I was wired I didn't feel the pain so much of being alone. I started doing crazy things, I was convinced I was bi-sexual at that time. I was just confused. I knew he was slanging so I called him one day to get some dope, and he came over. And we reunited. And became heavily involved in the whole dope scene.
I became very cold and ruthless to everyone, but my son's dad and I were like Bonnie and Clyde now. At first that dope made us feel so close. He quit leaving me all the time because he didn't have to live a double life anymore. He was heavily into pornography and I became involved too. So he quit cheating on me for awhile. He gave up his homies because he knew I was more 'down' (deceived about the meaning of loyalty) than any of them. I wanted to be loved by him so bad that I would lie to myself constantly just so I could bare the abuse and lies. He knew I would die for him.
I remember we were at the dope spot getting into our car one day and two guys ran up on his window and one had a gun in his waist. With no hesitation I jumped out of the car, unarmed and got in the dude's face. I was going to have him shoot me instead of see my man get killed in front of me. That's another time I knew the Lord was with me. Because those guys didn't do anything to us. (Later on after I gave my life to the Lord, God had spoken to me about that loyalty. How he was the one who had given me a loyal heart, but it was supposed to have been to love HIM with. The enemy twisted it and I spent all my loyalty on the wrong things).
We isolated our self from regular people and hung around other addicts. We lost everything. Almost lost our son. I remember one Christmas we spent in a drug house, smoking dope with 10 other people! That was a very low time. Our family took Lino for Christmas but we weren't invited because we were out of our mind.
One night I found out about him cheating on me and pulled a knife on him. When I saw the scared look on his face I turned it on myself. The betrayal was too much. I stabbed myself twice in the belly. I was hospitalized and less than a millimeter away from piercing my intestines, which would have poisoned me and killed me. I have 2 ugly scars to remind me how God saved my life yet again.
A few weeks after that I remember being in a drug infested motel fighting with my man. I had told him that it was over. And something evil took over him. I looked into his eyes and saw something else there. He told me, 'I'm going to finish the job' (talking about how I had almost killed myself before) and he took out a knife and starting jabbing it towards me right where my belly had barely begin healing up.
HE WAS TELLING ME WHEN IT WAS OVER HE WAS GOING TO KILL US BOTH
He then raped me at knifepoint. He was telling me when it was over he was going to kill us both and if I screamed he would kill me now. I believed him with all my heart. I saw the murder in his eyes. I was pleading with him and nothing worked. Finally out of desperation I pressed my head into the knife. Hoping once he saw blood he would snap out of it. It worked. The side of my head dripped blood and he jumped off me and went crazy, crying, saying he was sorry. Whatever had taken over him had suddenly left. But the next night it came back. And my son woke up to his father on top of his mother socking her in the face. I told him he was dreaming and to go back to sleep.
Awhile after that he had witnessed his dad come at me with a hatchet. I was able to roll out of the way and he split a hole down the middle of our bed instead. I remember rolling around on the bed with Lino's dad, fighting, and looking to the side to see my little boy frantically hiding the hatchet in the bathroom so we couldn't use it on each other. I will never forget the somber look on my son.s face as he told me, 'Mommy, I feel violence in my tummy.' That's a five year old discerning a spirit of murder.
Another time I lost control and ran at my man with a kitchen knife. It was headed straight for his heart. Thank God he turned and the knife plunged into his arm, and broke into three pieces.
Right now he could be dead. I could be in prison and our son could be a ward of the state. Many other violent acts happened over the course of time. These things didn't scare me enough to take my son and leave though. I was wrapped in a web of darkness.
We finally got clean. I was done with it. I wanted out. He lasted a little while but the addiction came back. I ended up getting knocked in the face and bleeding all over the place. I ended up in the hospital ER. After that, I used again. And shortly after that I left him. After 8 long years I left him for another man. My homeboy who at the time I felt was my savior. It was lust, not love. My son's dad took Lino from me for three months out of revenge. I drank every day for those three months. I lived in an apartment with no electricity. I went days without eating. But as long as I was drunk and surrounded by people I could manage.
I was with the new man for about a month, then it got bad. It seemed so comforting at first, but we were both straight out of a serious relationship and didn't know how to even heal. So we hurt each other. I remember pinning him against the couch, just punching him over and over in the face until his nose busted and bled. I was determined to never let another man make me feel weak again.
So I let him go. I got my son back. But I was a single mom for the first time and I couldn't handle it. I was a coward. So I started doing dope again and taking off for days, leaving Lino with my mom. I began to hate men and contemplated switching to women for good. I thought If I left men alone totally they could have no power over me, and I could be strong and protect my heart.
Then came the day the Lord snatched me up. I was riding the bus all over town, twacked out, going to all the homie's houses, just wanting some comfort. I was overwhelmed with grief and guilt about my son. Why couldn't I love him the right way? Why couldn't I function normally in society? Why was I so violent and hopeless and dead inside?
With each place I went it got worse. I saw the same guilt and sorrow in my friend's eyes. How could we help each other when we were all so lost? None of them knew the way out. But I did. I always had.
I DIDN'T KNOW HOW TO DO ANYTHING RIGHT AND I NEEDED SOMEONE TO SHOW ME
So I rode the bus home in tears. Wanting to die. I was already dead inside. I walked into the house and sat down at the kitchen table. I was totally broken, tired and desperate for change. I cried out to Jesus with all my heart. I gave up trying to be in control. I didn't know how to do anything right and I needed someone to show me. So I asked God to raise me all over again like a child.
I am now becoming who the Lord created me to be! I've been made new and am learning to walk out my freedom. When I look in the mirror I don't hate what I see. I can be responsible now. I'm a better mother, daughter, and sister. The darkness in my soul and eyes has been replaced with his Holy Spirit. God blessed me with real friends who will pray for me to show they got my back' not do dirt with me or cover for me but speak truth to me. A lot of people think you got to clean up your life before you reach for God. But I'm telling you the truth. That doesn't work! Jail, rehabs, shrinks, medications, they aren't the answer. You know why? Because Jesus is the one who changes us. So come to Him just the way you are. Let him change you. You can stop doing certain habits or behaviors for awhile, but if your heart is still empty you will go back to the same behavior, or replace it with something worse. Aren't you tired of short-term satisfaction? You can fill your time and mind with what this world has to offer, but at the end of the day when you lay your head down, you know you're empty and lost. Something's missing.
The things you hate about yourself, God doesn't even see that when he looks at you. When Jesus looks at you His eyes fill with tears because He truly loves you. No one can ever put ideas up in His head to make Him change His mind about you or make Him stop loving you (Unlike people!). When the Lord looks at you He doesn't see all the bad. He sees you as the mighty woman or man of God He created you to be. Don't you want to find out who you really are behind all the pain and anger and confusion?
A LOT OF TIMES, WHAT WE HAVE EXPERIENCED IN A FATHER IS ALL BAD - OFTEN EVIL IN FACT
Realize that God is our father. A lot of times what we have experienced in a father is all bad. But the Lord is a real father. He can love you in ways no person ever could. He can fill you with peace. You don't have to feel alone in life anymore. Satan comes to steal, kill and destroy. And he's done all three of those things to you - from a very young age.
And all the junk we experience in this world causes our soul to be covered in these layers of shame, guilt, anger, sorrow. When we give the Lord our heart, He lovingly takes it in His hands and mends it. And the layers come off you one by one, and then you can see who you are truly meant to be! Then you can find the life that you were meant to have. Then failure and despair are no longer a part of you! If you want to experience the power and love of Jesus, know that you're going to heaven, and be truly satisfied ask Him into your heart. If you're not sure what to say just repeat this out loud and with all your heart:
Jesus, come into my heart, fill me with your spirit, make me new inside. Free me from every evil thing in my life. Teach me your ways so I can be who you created me to be. Show me who you really are. In the name of Jesus I pray it - Amen.
Now it's time to get to know your Savior. The way we get to know Jesus closely is through his Words (The Bible), prayer and being around other people who love the Lord. And if you need a friend hit me up.
John 14:27: Peace I leave with you, My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid.
Dear Reader - are you at peace with God? If not, you can be. Do you know what awaits you when you die? You can have the assurance from God that heaven will be your home, if you would like to be certain. You can even have that assurance RIGHT NOW! Either Jesus Christ died for your sins, or He didn't (He did!). Are you prepared to stand before God on the Judgment Day and tell Him that you didn't need the shed blood of Jesus Christ on the Cross to have your sins forgiven and get in right-standing with God? We plead with you...please don't make such a tragic mistake.
To get to know God, to be at peace with God, to have your sins forgiven, to make certain heaven will be your home for eternity, to make certain that you are in right-standing with God right now ... please click here to help you understand the importance of being reconciled to God. What you do about being reconciled to God will determine where you will spend eternity, precious one. Your decision to be reconciled to God is the most important decision you'll ever make in this life, because in Christ, it is impossible to put a value on the worth of your soul in light of eternity.
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Remember: All that we do in this life comes back to our God-given purpose which is to serve and glorify God. The money and assets we accumulate, the fame and power we've attained or seek to attain - all of the things of this nature will one day pass away, but those lives of others we impact for Jesus Christ will last for eternity, and we will be rewarded for the part we helped play by impacting those lives ... for eternity. (Matthew 6:19-20 is our assurance)